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

NUMBER 1The ways we still struggle to move forward with the NBA, about 50 games done, some 30 more to go and the All Star Game weekend still in the distance:

== The trade deadline is noon Thursday.
If could trade everything that happened last week in the NBA for something different, we’d take it.
Now the reality is: The Lakers may have some holes they’d like to fill and some have been rumored to be offered as bait – Kyle Kuzman anyone? — but do they dare mess with roster chemistry in the way it has bonded since the death of Kobe Bryant? What are the Clippers searching for?
Which players are most likely to be dealt? Hard to say really. Many are trying hard to read between the lines.

== The latest odds by BetOnline.ag for the NBA champions has Milwaukee (3/1) a clear favorite over the No. 2 and 3 teams – the Lakers, at 7/2 and Clippers at 4/1. The defending champion Toronto Raptors – remember? – are 20/1. The defending Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors are 500/1. The New York Knicks (with Atlanta and Cleveland) are 1000/1.

== According to projections at FiveThirtyEight.com, seven teams have greater than a 99 percent chance or better to make the playoffs in the Western Conference: Lakers, Clippers, Utah, Dallas, Denver, Houston and Oklahoma City. The Lakers and Clippers are co-favorites to win the NBA title at 21 percent each (with Milwaukee at 19 percent).
In the West, only the No. 8 spot is open — the team that will go up against the Lakers or Clippers in the first round. Best percentages are on New Orleans (46 percent) over Portland (39 percent), two teams the Lakers would not be all that happy to see. So what does Memphis, San Antonio, Phoenix, Sacramento, Minnesota and Golden State have to look forward to?
In the East, six teams are better than 99 percent, with Orlando (94 percent) and New Jersey (86 percent) filling out the last two slots behind Milwaukee, Boston, Toronto, Miami, Philadelphia and Indiana. Chicago and Washington have a far outside shot, better than the less-than-one percent given to Atlanta, Detroit, Charlotte, Cleveland or New York.
So why play the rest of the season past the Feb. 16 All-Star break?

How the rest of the week unfolds for the Lakers (31-11, 3 1/2 games up in the Western Conference, still No. 2 in the ESPN NBA Power Rankings behind Milwaukee):
= Vs. San Antonio, Staples Center, Tuesday at 7 p.m., TNT, Spectrum SportsNet
= Vs. Houston, Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TNT
= At Golden State, Saturday at 5:30 p.m., Channel 7

How the rest of the week unfolds for the Clippers (34-15, second in the Western Conference, with Paul George back, but still No. 4 in the ESPN NBA Power rankings, with Toronto moving to No. 3) now that San Diego State has retired Kawhi Leonard’s jersey:
= Vs. San Antonio, Staples Center, Monday at 7:30 p.m. Prime Ticket
= Vs. Miami, Staples Center, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Minnesota, Saturday at 5 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Cleveland, Sunday at 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket


The latest we are trying to figure out about the college basketball season with March Madness just a month away:

== The latest AP Top 25 poll continues to give 19-1 Baylor (49 first place votes) a healthy push over 23-1 Gonzaga, which has LMU this week. San Diego State’s 23-0 mark remains fourth behind 18-3 Kansas.
The highest-ranked Pac-12 team, Oregon (18-5), dropped three spots to No. 14. Arizona (15-6), which has USC and UCLA this week, moved up three spots to No. 23, and Colorado (17-5) dropped four spots to No. 24 after a loss to UCLA. No other Pac-12 team received a vote.
== If you look at the NCAA Power 36, SDSU is No. 3, Oregon and Arizona are Nos. 17 and 18, and Colorado is 25.
== Sniffing around Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology on ESPN:  Oregon is a No. 3 seed, but in the South (where Baylor is No. 1), Arizona is a No. 7 seed in the Midwest (where Kansas is No. 1) and Colorado is a No. 6 seed and USC is a No. 8 seed in the West (where San Diego State is No. 1). Gonzaga’s top seed zigs the Zags over to the … East? He also has UC Irvine as the Big West rep, a No. 15 seed in the East served up to No. 2 Seton Hall.

How the week plays out for USC (17-5, 6-3 in the Pac-12, 0-2 against teams in the AP Top 25)
= At Arizona, Thursday at 6 p.m., ESPN2
= At Arizona State, Saturday at 7 p.m., FS1
How the week plays out for UCLA (12-10, 5-4 in the Pac-12, just 1 1/2 games out of the lead, and 1-2 against teams in the AP Top 25 coming off a win vs. Colorado)
= At Arizona State, Thursday at 8 p.m., ESPN2
= At Arizona, Saturday at 7 p.m., ESPN2

How the week plays out for Cal State Northridge (9-15, 4-4 in the Big West)
= Vs. UC Riverside, Matadome, Saturday at 7 p.m.
How the week plays out for Long Beach State (7-16, 2-5 in the Big West)
= At Cal Poly, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

How the week plays out for Pepperdine (12-11, 5-4 in the WCC, coming off a win at LMU last Saturday in OT)
= Vs. Santa Clara, Firestone Fieldhouse, Thursday at 7 p.m., WCC Network
= At Pacific, Saturday at 7 p.m., WCC Network
How the week plays out for Loyola Marymount (8-15, 2-7 in the WCC coming off a loss to Pepperdine in OT last Saturday at home, 0-2 against the AP Top 25)

== At Gonzaga, Thursday at 8 p.m., CBSSN

Games of national interest this week include:
North Carolina at Florida State, 4 p.m., ESPN
Texas at Kansas, 6 p.m., ESPN
Baylor at Kansas State, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Duke at Boston College, 4 p.m., ESPN
Rutgers at Maryland, 4 p.m., FS1
Penn State at Michigan State, 5 p.m., Big Ten Net
Mississippi State at Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPN
Villanova at Butler, 3:30 p.m., FS1
Seton Hall at Georgetown, 5:30 p.m., FS1
Wake Forest at Louisville, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Cal at Colorado, 5 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Stanford at Utah, 7 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Harvard at Yale, 2 p.m., ESPNU
Maryland at Illinois, 5 p.m., FS1
Kansas at TCU, 9 a.m., FS1
Miami at Florida State, 9 a.m., ACC Net
Michigan State at Michigan, 9 a.m., Channel 11
LSU at Auburn, 9 a.m.
DePaul at Georgetown, 9 a.m.
Kentucky at Tennessee, 10 a.m., Channel 2
Seton Hall at Villanova, 11:30 a.m., Channel 11
Virginia at Louisville, 1 p.m., ESPN
Oklahoma State at Baylor, 3 p.m., ESPN2
Duke at North Carolina, 3 p.m., ESPN
Stanford at Colorado, 3 p.m., Pac 12 Net
San Diego State at Air Force, 5 p.m., CBSSN
Cal at Utah, 5 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s, 7 p.m.
Oregon at Oregon State, 7:30 p.m., Pac 12 Net
Butler at Marquette, 9 a.m., FS1
Ohio State at Wisconsin, 10 a.m., Channel 2
Cincinnati at UConn, 9 a.m., CBSSN
Wichita State at Houston, noon, ESPN
Notre Dame at Clemson, 3 p.m., ACC Network
Washington at Washington State, 3 p.m., ESPNU
Northwestern at Rutgers, 3:30 p.m., Big Ten Net


NUMBER 3What we know about the NHL and the brutal week ahead for the Kings and Ducks away from home:
== Alex Ovechkin has passed Mark Messier for No. 8 on the career goals list with 695. Could he reach the 700 mark in Tuesday’s game against the Kings at home?
“Eight is a good number,” the Capitals captain said after Friday’s accomplishment, since he wears No. 8, and recently changed it to wear  No. 24 in honor of Kobe Bryant. “I would say it’s nice to be in good company. There are a lot of legends up there.”
In the Caps’ 4-3 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, Ovechkin was held off the scoresheet, staying at 37 goals for the season. That game marked the 50th meeting between Ovechkin and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. The Pens have won 31 of the 50 Crosby versus Ovechkin games dating to their NHL debuts during the 2005-06 season.

How the week lays out for the Kings (19-29-5, last in the Western Conference after a loss to the Ducks at home)
= At Washington, Tuesday at 4 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At N.Y. Islanders, Thursday at 4 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At New Jersey, Saturday at 4 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At N.Y. Rangers, Sunday at 3 p.m., Fox Sports West

Also this week for the Ducks (21-26-6, next to last in the Western Conference)
= At Ottawa, Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Montreal, Thursday at 4 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Toronto, Friday at 4 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Buffalo, Sunday at noon, Prime Ticket


NUMBER 4Welcome again to the XFL.
L.A. has been waiting 19 years to defend its one and only XFL championship. Sorry, Chiefs, but this wait has seemed more than just a half century.
The new post-NFL eight-team league starts Saturday and Sunday. It runs 10 weeks until April 12. Playoffs (April 18-19) lead to a title game on Sunday, April 26 on ESPN.
Then, we rest.
Your Los Angeles Wildcats – and if you ask us to identify any one of them, including the coach, you’ll get a blank stare – starts the season at Houston, 2 p.m. on Channel 11, with Curt Menefee and Joel Klatt.
OK, so we know Norm Chow is the offensive coordinator. Former USC receiver De’Quan Hampton is listed on the roster.
The hook: New rules tested out. Like the “Double Pass” – a team can complete a pass behind the line of scrimmage and then throw a second forward pass as long as they haven’t crossed the line of scrimmage. The NFL and college only allow one forward pass per play. What does it matter? It’s less risky. If the first pass is incomplete, it’s not a fumbled lateral.

Seattle at D.C, Saturday at 11 a.m., Channel 7 (Steve Levy and Greg McElroy)
Tampa Bay at New York, Sunday at 11 a.m., Channel 11 (Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen)
St. Louis at Dallas, Sunday at 2 p.m., ESPN (Tom Hart, Joey Galloway and Pat McAfee)


NUMBER 5Pro Bull Riding returns to Staples Center (Friday at 7:45 p.m. and Saturday at 6:45 p.m.), the day after a Lakers-Rockets game and two days before it needs to go back to basketball.
What do we know about the PBR?
Not a heck of a lot except … Who are we kidding? There was a great interview that Jim Gaffigan did with Stephen Colbert the other night, talking about how he had to do a comedy show at a pro bull riding event in San Antonio recently.


= The PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Thursday-Sunday, Golf Channel and Channel 2, noon to 3 p.m. each day) is the next-to-last West Coast swing stop before Riviera.

== The CONCACAF Women’s Olympic qualifiers happen at Dignity Heath Sports Park in Carson with semifinals on Friday starting at 4 p.m. (Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up and Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up, with the U.S. playing in Group A and Canada and Mexico in Group B). The U.S. game airs at 7 p.m. on FS1. Then, the final on Sunday at 3 p.m. on FS2 (bumped there from FS1 because of NHRA).

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