12.23.19: Five things for the week ahead based on unscientific evidence of guaranteed importance

NUMBER 1There’s the real meaning of Christmas, and then the one that the NBA and its TV partners wants to believe is true — and it has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus Shuttlesworth or God Shammgod.
== ESPN, in promoting its five-game schedule for Wednesday’s holiday and focused on the simulcast with ABC for the Lakers-Clippers Part II of the 2019-20 regular season (with Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson, 5 p.m., Staples Center), has a “Christmasketball” campaign with singer John Legend. You’ve likely smelled it from afar, like chestnuts roasting on a gas-log fire. Don’t try to pronounce “Christmasketball.” It’s not a real word nor should it be attempted.

== As part of the newest Lakers-Clippers rivalry dynamic, there’s been some who’ve tried to blow up a Doc Rivers quote about LeBron James. We’ll give you the story here and let you decide.
== Will LeBron James need time off Wednesday to rest himself or can he rescue the team from its horrifying three-game losing streak?
== Since 2009, only five teams with a winning percentage under .406 on Christmas Day went on to make the playoffs, according to a story in Ozy.com entitled:  “Merry Christmas: We Can Already Rule Out a Third of the NBA,” says this story from Ozy.com.
== The rest of the Christmas Day NBA schedule:
= Boston vs. Toronto, 9 a.m., ESPN (Adam Amin, Richard Jefferson)
= Milwaukee vs. Philadelphia, 11:30 a.m., Channel 7 (Dave Pasch, Doris Burke)
= Houston vs. Golden State, 2 p.m., Channel 7 (Mark Jones, Hubie Brown)
= New Orleans vs. Denver, 7:30 p.m., ESPN (Ryan Ruocco, Chauncey Billups)

How the rest of the week unfolds for the Lakers (24-6, still No. 2 behind 27-4 Milwaukee in the ESPN Power Rankings)
= At Portland, Saturday at 7 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet
= Vs. Dallas, Staples Center, Sunday at 6:30 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet

How the rest of the week unfolds for the Clippers (22-10, No. 3 in the Power Rankings)
= vs. Utah, Staples Center, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket


NUMBER 2The college football bowl season finally has its undisputed national championship Final Four pairings for Saturday:
= Peach Bowl in Atlanta: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Oklahoma, 1 p.m., ESPN (Sean McDonough, Todd Blackledge)
= Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.: No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson, 5 p.m., ESPN (Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit)
== We’re also able to add 8-4 USC into the Chex mix – vs. 9-3 Iowa in San Diego’s Holiday Bowl (Friday, 5 p.m., FS1, with Gus Johnson and Joel Klatt), which is actually the first match up this bowl season of College Football Playoff Top 25 teams, and it’s not on ESPN.
We’ll let you research how the Trojans and Hawkeyes are actually ranked when measured up against the rest in a process that really is supposed to just figure out the Top 4 choices.
Otherwise, here’s the rest of this tossed salad:
= Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa, Fla.: Central Florida vs. Marshall, 11:30 a.m., ESPN
= Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu: Hawaii vs. BYU, 5 p.m., ESPN
No games Wednesday
= Independence Bowl at Shreveport, Louisiana: Louisiana Tech vs. Miami, 1 p.m., ESPN
= Quick Lane Bowl in Detroit: Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan, 5 p.m., ESPN
= Military Bowl in Annapolis, MD: North Carolina vs. Temple, 9 a.m., ESPN
= Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in N.Y.: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest, 12:20 p.m., ESPN
= Texas Bowl in Houston: No. 25 Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M, 3:25 p.m., ESPN
= Cheez-It Bowl in Phoenix: Air Force vs. Washington State, 7:15 p.m., ESPN
= Cotton Bowl in Arlington, Tex.: No. 10 Penn State vs. No. 16 Memphis, 9 a.m., ESPN
= Camping World Bowl in Orlando, Fla.: No. 15 Notre Dame vs. Iowa State, 9 a.m., Channel 7


NUMBER 3Based on the painfully obvious, and our ability to break down all the scenarios that others tell us are still in play,  what we can finally summarize to the end of the NFL season with Week 17:
== The 8-7 Rams have their last game at the Coliseum, a Sunday 1:25 p.m. affair against Arizona on Channel 11. With no playoff shot to follow up last year’s run to the Super Bowl, might as well get all the tears out now. Fox sends out Chris Myers, Daryl Johnston and Laura Okmin to a game only going to 7 percent of the national market (74 percent see Washington-Dallas with Joe Buck and Troy Aikman for some reason).
== The 5-10 Chargers’ last contest in Kansas City (Sunday, 10 a.m., Channel 2) could have been something special when the schedule came out. Now … Philip Rivers’ final game? After 224 consecutive regular season starts? CBS dispatches Kevin Harlan, Rich Gannon and John Schriffen.
== How do the 7-8 Oakland-to-be-Vegas Raiders still have the gumption to get into the playoffs? Win their final game at Denver, then get wins by already No. 1 AFC seed Baltimore against Pittsburgh, playoff-bound Houston over Tennessee and Indianapolis over Jacksonville. All those games are now aligned in the afternoon CBS window. Then, the Raiders apparently also need a victory by one of the following teams: Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City (over the Chargers) or New England. ESPN’s FPI gives it all a 12.5 percent chance of happening.
== When the NFL season started, BetOnline.ag had the over/under on the Rams’ regular season win total at 10 1/2, and the Chargers at 10. And the Raiders at 6. You do the math.

Finishing Week 16:
= Green Bay at Minnesota, Monday at 5:15 p.m., ESPN
Moving into Week 17:
All games on Sunday:
= In the Fox 10 a.m. window to start the network doubleheader: Chicago at Minnesota (instead of Green Bay at Detroit, Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants, Atlanta at Tampa Bay, New Orleans at Carolina and Cleveland at Cincinnati, the later moved over from CBS)
= In the CBS 10 a.m. window (not available in L.A.): Miami at New England, N.Y. Jets at Buffalo
= In the CBS 1:25 p.m. window: Oakland at Denver (along with Pittsburgh at Baltimore, Indianapolis at Jacksonville, and Tennessee at Houston)
= The new Fox 1:25 p.m. window (not available in L.A.): Washington at Dallas, Philadelphia at N.Y. Giants.
== San Francisco at Seattle, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4 (last game of the regular season)


NUMBER 4Why the college basketball season seems to be making news on a weekly basis but things really don’t start to make sense until the calendar turns:
== After No. 1 Kansas’ loss to Villanova on Saturday, the rise of 13-1 Gonzaga to No. 1 in the AP Top 25 marks the sixth new team in the top spot since Michigan State was there in the preseason then lost its first game. Kentucky, Duke and Louisville have also come and gone.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the five losses by an AP No. 1 team is the most such losses in a single season in the poll era. The single-season record for most No. 1 teams since the poll debuted in 1948-49 is seven, which happened in 1982-83.
By the way: Pepperdine starts the West Coast Conference schedule at Gonzaga on Jan. 4.
Yes, the Zags, who have defeated Top 25 teams Oregon, Arizona and Washington from the Pac-12, as well as North Carolina, with their only loss to Michigan, should be favored to win every one of its last 17 games to have 30 wins going into the WCC Tournament in March.
== The Pac-12 additions and subtractions to the current AP Top 25: 10-2 Oregon is up two spots to No. 6, 9-2 Washington is up one spot to No. 21, 10-3 Arizona is down eight spots to No. 24, and 10-2 Colorado is in the No. 27 spot if that one really existed.
== The last non-conference games for 10-2 USC and 7-5 UCLA happen this week as the Pac 12 launches in Washington for both of them on Jan. 2. The Trojans’ matchup with coach Andy Enfield’s former program (currently 3-11, 0-6 on the road) seems kind of cool. The Bruins’ ability to allow the Titans of Fullerton (3-10, 1-5 on the road) into their arena would seem to be a safe bet as well.
== For those intent on paying attention to rivalry games, the women’s side has 8-3 USC facing No. 10 and 11-0 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion on Sunday (1 p.m. Pac 12 Network). Four Pac-12 teams are in the women’s Top 10, with Oregon and Stanford having the No. 1 spots at some point.

How the week plays out for USC (10-2, 5-1 at home)
= vs. Florida Gulf Coast, Galen Center, Sunday at 7 p.m., Pac 12 Network
How the week plays out for UCLA (7-5, 6-1 at home)
= vs. Cal State Fullerton, Pauley Pavilion, Saturday at 2 p.m., Pac 12 Network (with Bill Walton)

How the week plays out for Long Beach State (4-9, 0-5 on the road)
= At Seattle, Monday at 3 p.m.
= At Florida, Saturday at 9 a.m., SEC Network
How the week plays out for Cal State Northridge (3-10, 1-7 on the road)
= At Boise State, Saturday at 3 p.m., Mountain West Network

How the week plays out for Pepperdine (7-6)
= At San Jose State, Saturday at 6 p.m.
How the week plays out for Loyola Marymount (6-7)
= Vs. Morgan State, Gersten Pavilion, Saturday at 7 p.m.

Games of national interest this week include:
= Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, games at 12:30 p.m., ESPNU; 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., ESPN2
= Louisville at Kentucky, 12:45 p.m., Channel 2
= West Virginia vs. Ohio State in Cleveland, Sunday at 9 a.m., FS1
= Kansas at Stanford, noon, Channel 7
= Harvard at Cal, 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network (with Bill Walton)


NUMBER 5What we agree is the NHL in Southern California just pushing through to 2020:
== The current Stanley Cup champions are in town. With the best record in the Western Conference. Ready for a Blues Christmas-time visit?
How this week shapes up for the Kings (15-19-4, tied for last in the Western Conference, but not quite last in the latest ESPN Power Rankings)
= Vs. St. Louis, Staples Center, Monday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At San Jose, Friday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At Vancouver, Saturday at 7 p.m., Fox Sports West
How the week shapes up for the Ducks (15-18-4, tied for last in the Western Conference)
= Vs. Vegas, Honda Center in Anaheim, Friday at 7 p.m., Prime Ticket
= Vs. Philadelphia, Honda Center in Anaheim, Sunday at 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket

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