Shanoff's WUC: Sid-Ovie, Kim, Kobe, Rod, Bubs

Today's Calls: Sidney Crosby vs. Alexander Ovechkin, Kim Yu-Na vs. Mao Asada, U.S. vs. Switzerland, Florida vs. the Bubble, Rich Rodriguez vs. the NCAA, Brian Westbrook vs. the Eagles, Kobe vs. Josh Howard, Herb Magee vs. Bob Knight and More. ↵

↵Ovechkin Crosby ↵

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↵The Opening Pitch: You want Olympic stakes? Try this: ↵

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↵When Canada and Russia play tonight, the loser is done. Out of the running for a medal. Kaput. Finished. FAIL. ↵

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↵Now, every game in the quarterfinal round is win-or-no-medal — the U.S. is equally obliterated if they lose to the Swiss — but Canada-Russia is particularly amazing. ↵

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↵These represent the two favorites for gold heading into the Olympic tournament. Now, the losing team won't medal at all. ↵

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↵Desperation? Check. ↵

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↵The game also pits the two best hockey players in the world — Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin — who also happen to be nasty rivals. ↵

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↵Bad feelings? Check. ↵

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↵I know there's some sort of unwritten rule that if the U.S. isn't involved, it doesn't exist, but this sizes up as one of the best sports events of the year — and one of the most intriguing hockey games ever. ↵

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↵What makes it even more special is that it's not like the winner actually wins anything yet, let alone gold — they merely avoid the humiliation of being the loser, which is all we will talk about when the game is over. ↵

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↵Speaking of crushing Olympic fail: Sven Kramer in the speedskating 10,000. Gack! ↵

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↵Meanwhile, Kim Yu-Na backs up the hype: She set a world record with her short-program win last night, beating her main rival Mao Asada — who went right before Kim — to do it. Kim was as close to perfect as it gets. ↵

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↵CBB Bubble Watch: Florida is as good as in with its rousing win over Tennessee, the highlight of the season for the Gators. (Bubble Tonight: San Diego State can help its resume with a win at BYU, and Dayton can do the same thing at Temple.) ↵

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↵More Rich Rodriguez scandals: The response Wait: Was I not supposed to do that? Was that not OK? is a sketchy, cynical excuse. Is it really worth it, Michigan? Really? There are no other coaches who can return the program to glory? New AD David Benson's immediate reaction to defend Rich-Rod shows where his priorities are; by supporting the coach, the AD now owns the problem, too. ↵

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↵NFL Combine starts today: The best players don't/won't work out, making the Combine the most overrated part of the draft process, at least for the elite players. Interviews? Wonderlic? Yeah, sure: Whatever. Go ahead and pass on them, and your rival will snatch them up and beat you over the head with them (See Harvin, Percy). At the margins? OK: Slightly more important, but any scouting staff that doesn't already have a book on every player is in a little trouble. ↵

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↵NFL Draft: Anyone want a top pick? Anyone? ↵

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↵Eagles cut Brian Westbrook: I find Andy Reid disingenuous in suggesting that Westbrook's concussions had nothing to do with it. Athletes can make their own career decisions, but I hope Westbrook considers his long-term future. ↵

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↵(By the way, I think Westbrook has qualified to have his jersey number retired by the Eagles.) ↵

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↵NFL vs. PEDs: The union will get very little public sympathy if they don't agree to a "pin-prick" blood test for HGH. The NFL should be more worried about what the tests might find. ... ↵

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↵Speaking of HGH, MLB is reportedly going to start testing minor-leaguers for it. Note that while football continually gets a free pass on the HGH issue, MLB bends itself backward to try to be more aggressive in testing. ↵

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↵NBA Talking Points: Kobe is back, emphatically — 32 points and a game-winning 3 with 4 seconds to go to push the Lakers over the Grizzlies in Memphis. It's like he never left ... except that the rest of the team got better while he wasn't there. ↵

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↵Rookie Watch: Darren Collison has been a revelation since Chris Paul went down with injury, but even his 22 pts/10 ast last night was overshadowed by rookie teammate Marcus Thornton's 37, including 23 in the 2nd quarter. ↵

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↵Josh Howard done for season: Man, that was fast, even by "Curse of Les Boulez" standards. ↵

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↵MLB Spring Training: He might be off the "phenom" radar, but I still love David Price. I like that he wants to win 20 games, and won't be happy settling for 10. ↵

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↵Tiger Watch: Forget the scandal. Can you imagine if Tiger and Elin were parents in your kid's day-care? (The couple sent a letter to other parents, apologizing for the paparazzi hovering over the day-care.) ↵

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↵Oh, wow: The NCAA Vault of every Tournament game from Sweet 16 to title game from 2000-2009. ↵

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↵The Last Word: Congrats to Herb Magee, coach of Philadelphia University, who last night set the new career coaching wins record in NCAA basketball. ↵

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↵Dan Shanoff writes The Wake-Up Call every weekday morning for SportingNews.com and blogs daily at DanShanoff.com. Got any comments, questions or feedback? Email Dan at shanofftsn-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/danshanoff. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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