The basketball madness of March reveals itself first with an intercity L.A. story that has nothing to do with the major college tribes.
Episode 3 of the Lakers-Clippers 2018-19 drama – Staples Center, Monday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet, Prime Ticket – could be the crushing blow to Team LeBron’s playoff resume, even with the murky condition of the Western Conference standings.
After the Lakers’ demoralizing Saturday night loss to Phoenix, FiveThirtyEight.com gives them a generous seven percent chance of making the playoffs, with a record three games under .500 and 19 left on the schedule. If you bet $100 at a Las Vegas sportsbook on the Lakers to make the playoffs now, you’d win $600. You’d need to bet $900 to win $100 is you’re betting they miss.
Three weeks ago, their chances were at 41 percent and the projection is that not just the Lakers (30-33), but anyone in the West, would need 44 wins to get into the post season. The FiveThirtyEight.com projection is the Lakers will be a couple wins short based on their schedule and how everything else falls/
The Clippers (36-29) have an 88 percent chance of making it, currently tied with San Antonio for the No. 7 spot, trying to avoid any first-round meeting with Golden State (49-19), who have a 75 percent chance of making the NBA Finals and a 56 percent chance of repeating.
The previous two Lakers-Clippers meetings:
== The teams were about 40 percent into their seasons before they finally faced off on Dec. 28, and the Clippers rode behind a 36-point effort for Lou Williams in a 118-107 triumph.
The Clippers rattled off 22 unanswered points in the second half. The Lakers were without LeBron James, who injured himself a couple nights earlier at Golden State.
== On Jan. 31, James returned after a 17-game disappearance and made the difference in a 123-120 overtime win on the Clippers’ home court.
Also this week for the Lakers:
* Vs. Denver (42-20) at Staples Center, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN
* Vs. Boston (38-26) at Staples Center, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., Channel 7
Also this week for the Clippers:
* Vs. Oklahoma City (38-24) at Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
The Pac-12 basketball standings got a lot messier over the weekend, just as Washington was trying to justify a rare Top 25 appearance by the conference (as Louisville and Villanova fell out, yielding to Wofford and Buffalo). Then, the Huskies just couldn’t help themselves.
Just two Pac-12 regular season exercises for UCLA (16-13, 9-7) and USC (15-14, 8-8) before the trip to Las Vegas:
* UCLA at Colorado, 6 p.m., ESPN2
* USC at Utah, 7 p.m., FS1
* USC at Colorado, 2 p.m., Pac-12 Network
* UCLA at Utah, 4 p.m. Pac-12 Network
First time around, Utah won both at Pauley Pavilion (93-92) in an incredible collapses by the Bruins, then won at Galen Center (77-70). Utah senior guard Sedrick Barefield, out of Centennial High in Corona, has had two 33-point games this season, including Feb. 23 at Washington State. Colorado also defeated the Bruins (84-73) and Trojans (69-65) in L.A. in early February.
In the West Coast Conference Tournament:
Gonzaga (29-2, 16-0, winners of 20 straight and No. 1 in the latest polls) has a bye into the semifinals. It could meet either Pepperdine or LMU along the way.
Eighth-seed Pepperdine (13-17, 6-10) opens against ninth-seed Pacific (14-17,4-12) on Thursday (6 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet), with the winner facing fifth-seeded Loyola Marymount (20-10, 8-8) on Friday (6 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet). That could send either the Waves or Lions to face fourth-seed San Francisco on Saturday (7 p.m. ESPN2), with that winner running into Gonzaga (March 11, 6 p.m., ESPN). As the second seed, St. Mary’s also is off until the semifinals. The WCC final is Tuesday, March 12 (6 p.m., ESPN).
In the Big West Conference regular season finales:
* Long Beach State (13-18, 7-8): Vs. UC Riverside (9-21, 3-11) at the Walter Pyramid, Wednesday at 7 p.m.
* Cal State Northridge (13-17, 7-7): At UC Irvine (25-5, 13-1), Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Games of national interest:
Monday: No. 2 Virginia at Syracuse, 4 p.m., ESPN. Also: Texas at No. 8 Texas Tech, 6 p.m., ESPN; No. 18 Kansas State at TCU, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Tuesday: Wake Forest at No. 4 Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN. Also: Nebraska at No. 9 Michigan State, 4 p.m., ESPN2; Xavier at Butler, 3 p.m., FS1; No. 15 Virginia Tech at No. 14 Florida State, 4 p.m., ESPNU; No. 3 North Carolina at Boston College, 5 p.m., ACC Net; No. 11 Purdue at Minnesota, 5 p.m., Big Ten Net; No. 6 Kentucky at Mississippi, 6 p.m., ESPN; Mississippi State at No. 5 Tennessee, 6 p.m., SEC Net; No. 13 Kansas at Oklahoma, 6 p.m., ESPN2; Auburn at Alabama, 6 p.m., ESPNU;No. 17 Nevada at Air Force, 8 p.m. ESPN2
Wednesday: No. 10 LSU at Florida, 4 p.m., ESPN2. Also: No. 16 Marquette at Seton Hall, 3:30 p.m., FS1; Oregon State at Washington, 7 p.m., Pac-12 Net; Ohio State at Northwestern, 6 p.m., Big Ten Net; Clemson at Notre Dame, 6 p.m., ESPNU; Oregon at Washington State, 8 p.m., ESPN; Fresno State at San Diego State, 7 p.m., CBSSN
Thursday: No. 20 Cincinnati at No. 25 Central Florida, 4 p.m., ESPN2; Iowa at No. 21 Wisconsin, 4 p.m., ESPN. Also: SMU at No. 12 Houston, 6 p.m., ESPN; Indiana at Illinois, 5 p.m., FS1; Cal at Stanford, 8 p.m., ESPNU
Friday: Miami at No. 15 Virginia Tech, 4 p.m., ESPN2. Also: Minnesota at No. 24 Maryland, 3:30 p.m., FS1. Bowling Green at No. 19 Buffalo, 3 p.m., ESPNU; Brown at Princeton, 1 p.m., ESPNU.
Saturday: No. 4 Duke at No. 3 North Carolina, 3 p.m., ESPN; No. 7 Michigan at No. 9 Michigan State, 5 pm., ESPN. Also: No. 5 Tennessee at Auburn, 9 a.m., ESPN; No. 14 Florida State at Wake Forest, 9 a.m., ACC Net; No. 23 Villanova at Seton Hall, 9 a.m., Channel 11; Notre Dame at Pittsburgh, 9 a.m., ACC Net; Florida at No. 6 Kentucky, 11 a.m., Channel 2; No. 8 Texas Tech at Iowa State, 11 a.m., ESPNEWS; Baylor at No. 13 Kansas, 11 a.m., ESPN; No. 11 Purdue at Northwestern, 11:30 a.m., Big Ten Net; Georgetown at Marquette, 11:30 a.m., Channel 11; Oregon State at Washington State, noon, Pac-12 Net; Louisville at No. 2 Virginia, 1 p.m., ESPN; No. 25 Central Florida at Temple, 1 p.m., ESPN2; Arizona State at Arizona, 1 p.m., Channel 2; Oklahoma at No. 18 Kansas State, 3 p.m., ESPN2; Yale at Princeton, 3 p.m., ESPN+; Vanderbilt at No. 10 LSU, 5:30 p.m., SEC Net; Oregon at Washington, 7 p.m., ESPN; San Diego State at Nevada, 7:30 p.m., CBSSN; San Francisco vs. TBD in WCC tournament, 7 p.m., ESPN2; BYU vs. TBD in WCC tournament, 9 p.m., ESPN2.
Sunday: No. 12 Houston at No. 20 Cincinnati, 9 a.m., TBD; Iowa at Nebraska, 11 a.m. Big Ten Net; No. 21 Wisconsin at Ohio State, 1:30 p.m.
There could be some interest in the Angels playing host to the Dodgers in a Thursday afternoon exhibition game (at Tempe, Ariz., noon, Fox Sports West — not on SportsNet L.A.)
In college baseball:
* USC vs. UCLA at the Dodger Stadium Classic, Sunday at 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network (preceded by Michigan vs. Oklahoma State at 10:30 a.m.)
* Also this week for UCLA: vs. Pepperdine, at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Tuesday at 6 p.m.; vs. Michigan at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Friday at 6 p.m.; vs. Oklahoma State at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Saturday at 2 p.m.
* Also this week for USC: vs. Loyola Marymount at Dedeaux Field, Tuesday at 6 p.m.; vs. Oklahoma State at Dedeaux Field, Friday at 6 p.m.; vs. Michigan at Dedeaux Field, Saturday at 6 p.m.|
* Loyola Marymount: At USC, Tuesday at 6 p.m.; At Louisiana Lafayette, Friday at 4:30 p.m., Saturday at noon; Sunday at 11 a.m.
* Pepperdine: At UCLA, Tuesday at 6 p.m.; vs. UC Davis at Malibu, Friday at 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.
* Cal State Northridge: vs. St. John’s at Matador Field, Tuesday at 2 p.m.; At Washington State, Friday at 4 p.m.; Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at noon.
* Cal State Fullerton: vs. Arizona State at Goodwin Field, Tuesday and Wednesday, 6 p.m.; at New Mexico, Friday at 5 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m,. Sunday at 11 a.m.
The way to keep Portland’s Timbers weird about coming to L.A. is make it a bright, sun-drenched occasion. No rain, like they have at home. LAFC has a second straight Sunday home contest at Banc of California Stadium (4:30 p.m., FS1) against the defending Western Conference champions, who started their season with a 3-3 tie at home. The Timers lost to the LAFC 3-2 in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal game last July, if that still holds water. Meanwhile, the Galaxy hits the road at FC Dallas (Saturday, 12:30 p.m., Univision).
The BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells launches Wednesday and goes through March 17, signaling the first of nine ATP Masters 1000 events on this year’s calendar. Roger Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam champ who got his 100th career title recently in Dubai, heading toward Jimmy Connors’ record of 109, could well be making his final Indian Wells appearance. The 37-year-old and Novak Djokovic have five career titles here, with three for Rafael Nadal. Any hope of an American male making some noise? There have only been a handful of American men winners at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden since 1990: Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Pete Sampras. The tournament draw takes place Tuesday at 3 p.m., with the main draw starting Thursday. A year ago, Serena Williams used Indian Wells to make her comeback after having a child. The 37-year-old, who won this event 18 and 20 years ago, has a No. 10 ranking in the world again. Sister Venus, 39, is ranked No. 35.
- A Kings-Ducks matchup creates late-season drama (at Anaheim, Sunday at 7 p.m., NBCSN). Also this week for the Kings: vs. Montreal at Staples Center, Tuesday at 7:30 p.m., FSW; vs. St. Louis at Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., FSW; at Arizona, Saturday at 5 p.m., FSW. Also this week for the Ducks: at Arizona, Tuesday at 6 p.m., Prime Ticket; vs. St. Louis at Honda Center, Wednesday at 7 p.m., NBCSN; vs. Montreal at Honda Center, Friday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West.
- The PGA Champions Tour visits the Newport Beach Country Club for the Hoag Classic, Friday through Sunday (Golf Channel, 2:30-to-5 p.m.). The tour comes back to Thousand Oaks in November.
- The World Cup freestyle skiing halfpipe returns to Mammoth Lakes on Wednesday through Saturday.
- IndyCar starts its season with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Sunday (9:30 a.m., NBCSN)