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

NUMBER 1What we should know, marching forward, about a college basketball season with a post-season celebration right in our line of vision:

== When last week of February blew in, ESPN bracket guy Joe Lunardi came up with the nine teams he considered having “worrisome resumes” for the final spots in the NCAA Tournament, which will be announced on Sunday, March 15.
Three of them were in the Pac-12. Two of them were in Southern California.
Then USC and UCLA went out and swept home series against Arizona and Arizona State.
What, them worry?
After the Bruins’ buzzer-beating win over ASU that ESPN carried last Thursday, which came about and hour after the Trojans’ win over Arizona, Lunardi surmized it was somewhat of a wash.  His belief was the Pac-12 could only push in five bids – Arizona, ASU, Colorado and Oregon, plus … USC, UCLA or even Stanford. And USC’s win just then kept it in the “last four in” grouping, preventing UCLA (and Stanford) from busting out of the “last four out” status.

Now, it looks like it might be seven Pac-12 teams in, Lunardi is guessing.
He’s got USC as a No. 11 in the Midwest, with UCLA a No. 12 in the East, and then Stanford in a play-in game for No. 11 in the West. That’s after seeding Oregon (4 in the South), Colorado (5 in the Midwest), Arizona (6 in the South) and ASU (10 in the West).

That brings us to new Pac-12 leader UCLA (19-11, 12-5) facing USC (21-9, 10-7, tied for fourth) for the final regular season game – Saturday at Galen Center, 12:15 p.m., Channel 2 – with perhaps one more meeting in the conference tournament that will run  March 11-14 in Las Vegas.

The Trojans squashed the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 11, their seventh win over the rivals in the last eight meetings. Senior Nick Rakocevic had 17 points and 14 rebounds, while senior Jonah Mathews had 16. Freshman Ethan Anderson had 14 while fellow freshman Onyka Okongwu, the 6-foot-9 star out of Chino who currently leads the Trojans with 16.4 points and 8.9 rebounds a game, was held to four points against the Bruins because of foul trouble. UCLA was led by Chris Smith (16 points) and Jalen Hill (14 point) before the sellout crowd of 13,659.
In the latest AP Top 25, Oregon went up a notch to No. 13 and is now the only ranked Pac-12 team. UCLA gained the second-most Pac-12 votes and would be at No. 27 if it went that far, with Colorado (32nd, falling out of the Top 25), Arizona (34th), Stanford (36th), ASU (38th) and USC (tied for 45th) following.

The rest of the Pac 12 maneuvering for the conference tournament:
= Stanford (20-9, 9-7, tied for sixth) at Oregon State (15-13, 5-11, 11th place), 6 p.m., Pac 12 Net
= Washington (13-16, 3-13, 12th place) at Arizona State (19-10, 10-6, third place), 6 p.m., ESPN2
= Washington State (15-14, 6-10, ninth place) at Arizona (19-10, 9-7, tied for sixth), 7:30 p.m., FS1
= Cal (13-16, 7-9, eighth place) at Oregon (22-7, 11-5, second place), 8 p.m., ESPN2
= Colorado (21-9, 10-7, tied for fourth) at Utah (15-14, 6-11, 10th place) , 11:30 a.m., Pac 12 Net
= Cal at Oregon State, 1:30 p.m., Pac 12 Net
= Washington State at Arizona State, 3:30 p.m., Pac 12 Net
= Washington at Arizona, 7 p.m., ESPN or ESPN2
= Stanford at Oregon, 8 p.m., FS1

== The West Coast Conference seems to have three bids in the NCAA Tournament — Gonzaga (29-2), BYU (24-7) and Saint Mary’s (24-7) — and starts its own elimination process at Las Vegas’ Orleans Arena starting Thursday and wrapping up on Tuesday, March 10.
No. 1 seed Gonzaga, which moved up a spot to No. 2 in the latest AP Top 25 behind unanimous No. 1 Kansas, has a bye all the way to the semifinals on Monday, as does No. 2 seed BYU. No. 3 seeded Saint Mary’s joins in on Saturday, and those three are expected to be in decent shape.
Locally, Loyola Marymount (10-20, 4-12) drew the No. 8 seed in the 10-team league and faces No. 9 San Diego (9-22, 2-14) on Thursday at 6 p.m. (Spectrum Sports). The Lions could win and advance against No. 5 San Francisco on Friday, and then winner there goes up against No. 4 Pacific on Saturday.
Pepperdine (15-15, 8-8) has the No. 6 seed and opens Friday at 8 p.m. against the winner of Thursday’s Santa Clara-Portland contest. A win there, and the Waves go up against No. 3 Saint Mary’s at 9:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2

== Before Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge get to the Big West tournament in Anaheim from March 10-14, they’ve got to clean up the regular season. Long Beach State could fall between a tie for fifth or last, and ninth, in the conference. Northridge should be somewhere between second and fifth.
How the week plays out for Cal State Northridge (13-17, 8-6)
= At UC Irvine (21-10, 13-2), Wednesday at 7 p.m., ESPN3
= Vs. Hawaii, the Matadome, Saturday at 7 p.m.
How the week plays out for Long Beach State (10-20, 5-9)
= Vs. Cal Poly, Walter Pyramid, Thursday at 7 p.m., ESPN3
= At Cal State Fullerton, Saturday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN3

Games of national interest this week (without knowing how some teams may or may not advance in their conference tournaments):
North Carolina State at Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN
Texas Tech at Baylor, 6 p.m., ESPN
Maryland at Rutgers, 4 p.m., Big Ten Network
Michigan State at Penn State, 4 p.m., ESPN
Tennessee at Kentucky, 6 p.m., ESPN
Purdue at Iowa, 6 p.m., Big Ten Network
West Virginia at Iowa State, 6 p.m., ESPNU
Texas at Oklahoma, 6 p.m., ESPN2
Texas A&M at Auburn, 4 p.m., ESPN2
TCU at Kansas, 5 p.m., ESPN+
Villanova at Seton Hall, 5:30 p.m., FS1
Dayton at Rhode Island, 6 p.m., CBSSN
Florida State at Notre Dame, 6 p.m., ESPN2
San Diego State vs. Mountain West Conference tournament opponent at UNLV, 11:30 a.m., CBSSN
Nebraska at Michigan, 3:30 p.m., FS1
Illinois at Ohio State, 4 p.m., ESPN
Villanova at Georgetown, 9 a.m., Channel 11
Auburn at Tennessee, 9 a.m.
Baylor at West Virginia, 10 a.m., ESPN+
Kentucky at Florida, 10 a.m., Channel 2
Kansas at Texas Tech, 11 a.m., ESPN
Seton Hall at Creighton, 11:30 a.m., Channel 11
Louisville at Virginia, 1 p.m., ESPN
North Carolina at Duke, 3 p.m., ESPN
George Washington at Dayton, 4 p.m., ESPN+
Michigan at Maryland, 9 a.m.,. Channel 11
Memphis at Houston, 9 a.m., Channel 2
Ohio State at Michigan State, 1:30 p.m., Channel 2


NUMBER 2On today, the 58th anniversary of Wilt Chamberlain’s 100 point game in Hershey, Pennsylvania – there are highlights to be seen on NBA TV at 9:30 a.m. — what we know about this stage of the NBA schedule upcoming:

== The Lakers may face their most challenging week of the regular season — Eastern Conference leading Milwaukee rumbles into town, and displays its wares between visits by Philadelphia and the Clippers.
The Bucks, on pace for a 70-win season, handled the Lakers in Milwaukee, 111-104, on Dec. 19, behind 34 points, seven assists and 11 rebounds by Giannis Antetokounmpo, who also hit a career-best five 3-pointers. This, despite 36 points and 10 rebounds from Anthony Davis and LeBron James’ 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists. The backstory: The Bucks’ bench outscored the Lakers’ bench 34-4, led by George Hill’s 21. The Lakers were also ending a five-game road trip. This was the first meeting of two teams that were 20 games over .500 since 1980. It was also the first time all three Antetokounmp brothers could share a moment on their NBA teams – Giannis and teammate (and older brother) Thanasis, lus younger brother Kostas, on the Lakers’ roster.

== In the latest odds to win the 2020 NBA championship have been posted by BetOnline.ag, Milwaukee has improved from 3/1 to 9/4, while the Lakers are going in the other direction, at 11/4 versus 2/1 on Feb. 4. The Clippers have also improve to 7/2 over 15/4.

== This third Lakers-Clippers meeting was originally scheduled to be their last, but the postponed game from Jan. 28 has been reassigned to April 9.
In the previous two meetings, neither Anthony Davis nor LeBron James were the highest-scoring Laker. Maybe that’s why the Clippers have won the first two meetings? Going back:
= 112-102 on opening night Oct. 22, with Kawhi Leonard scoring 30 points and Paul George sidelined vs. Anthony Davis’ 25 and LeBron James’ 18, plus a team-best 28 by Danny Green, the highest-scoring debut by a Laker in franchise history.
= 111-106 on Christmas Day, when the Lakers blew a 15-point lead in the third quarter and seven in the fourth. Leonard had 11 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter. George added 17. The Lakers got 25 from Kyle Kuzman, while James had 23 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds to go with Davis’ 24 points. It was the Lakers’ fourth loss in a row at the time.

How the week unfolds for the Lakers (46-13, still No. 1 in Week 20 of the ESPN NBA Power Rankings):
= Vs. Philadelphia, Staples Center, Tuesday at 7 p.m., TNT
= Vs. Milwaukee, Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
= At Clippers, Staples Center, Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7

How the week unfolds for the Clippers (41-19, who jump from No. 6 to No. 3 in the ESPN NBA Power Rankings):
= At Oklahoma City, Tuesday at 5 p.m., Prime Ticket
= At Houston, Thursday at 5 p.m., TNT, Prime Ticket
= Vs. Lakers, Staples Center, Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7


NUMBER 3The timing of Sunday’s Dodger Stadium-to-Santa Monica Los Angeles Marathon (6 a.m. to 11 a.m., Channel 5) may seem a bit off. The 35th annual race comes a week after the U.S. Olympic trials happen in Atlanta, which kind of takes a lot of the potential high-profile runners out of the loop. That leaves 24,000 spots to fill. It begin again at Dodger Stadium – 6:30 a.m. for wheelchairs, 6:42 a.m. for handcycles, 6:45 a.m. for the elite women and 6:55 for the elite men and the rest of the field. Kenya’s Elisha Barno won the men’s division last year in 2 hours, 11 minutes, 45 seconds, passing John Korir Kipsang with 200 meters to go and won by seven seconds – the closest ever L.A. men’s marathon finish. Ethiopia’s Askale Merachi won the women’s division in 2:24:11, a course record. Utah native and former Weber State standout Lindsey Anderson, at 34,  was the highest women’s finisher at 2:34.44, for sixth place.
More info: www.lamarathon.com


NUMBER 4Carlos Vega wonders again what the opinion around L.A. may be after MLS opening week about the arrival of  Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez?
All is a soft opening.
The Galaxy, after a season-opening draw against Houston, go to the home pitch for the first time – Galaxy vs. Vancouver, at Dignity Health Sports Park, Saturday at 7 p.m., Spectrum SportsNet.
Meanwhile, Vega’s LAFC plays host to  Philadelphia, Banc of California Stadium, Sunday at 7:30 p.m., FS1. It’s the second of three in a row to open the season at home for the 1-0 LAFC.


NUMBER 5This week in college baseball also gives UCLA (11-0) and USC (7-3) a chance to feel each other out in the Southern California College Baseball Classic, which isn’t at Dodger Stadium because of construction.

How the week plays out for UCLA (11-0 after a 4-0 week against Pepperdine and three wins in the Frisco College Classic in Texas)
= At UC Santa Barbara, Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.
SoCal College Baseball Classic:
= Vs. Vanderbilt, at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Friday at 6 p.m.
= Vs. TCU, at Jackie Robinson Stadium, Saturday at 2 p.m.
= Vs. USC, at Dedeaux Field, Sunday at 3 p.m., Pac-12 Network

How the week plays out for USC (7-3 after winning two of three against visiting Seton Hall)
= Vs. UC Irvine, Dedeaux Field, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
SoCal College Baseball Classic:
= Vs. TCU, at Dedeaux Field, Friday at 6 p.m.
= Vs. Vanderbilt, at Dedeaux Field, Saturday at 2 p.m.
= Vs. UCLA, at Dedeaux Field, Sunday at 3 p.m., Pac-12 Net
(Also: Vanderbilt vs. TCU, Dedeaux Field, Sunday at 10 a.m.)

How the week plays out for Long Beach State (8-3 after winning two of three against No. 6 Mississippi State)
= At San Diego State, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
= Vs. Xavier, Blair Field, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m., Sunday at 1 p.m.
How the week plays out for Cal State Northridge (8-3, losing three of four at No. 17 Central Florida last weekend)
= At Gonzaga, Friday at 3 p.m.; Saturday doubleheader at 1 and 4:30 p.m., Sunday at noon
How the week plays out for Cal State Fullerton (4-7, losing three of four last week, including 7-1 vs. USC)
= Vs. Arizona State, Goodwin Field, Tuesday at 6 p.m. and Wednesday at 6 p.m.
= At Texas, Friday at 4:30 p.m., Saturday at noon, Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

How the week plays out for Loyola Marymount (4-7 after losing twice last week, including a 4-3, 24-inning decision at UC Davis)
= Vs. UC Riverside, Page Stadium, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
= At San Jose State, Friday at 6 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m., Sunday at noon
How the week plays out for Pepperdine (9-1, including the Waves’ first loss of the season last week against UCLA)
= At Florida Gulf Coast, Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.
= Vs. Michigan, at Eddy D. Field Stadium, Friday at 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m.


** What we can still gather about the NHL this deep into the regular season:
== Kyle Clifford and Jack Campbell come back to Staples Center with Toronto to meet up with their former Kings’ teammates – what’s left of them – for the first time since they were traded away.
== The Ducks don’t face Ottawa at Honda Center until March 10. Might want to get tickets now if you care to give a rousing cheer to the Senators’ Bobby Ryan.
== Also this week for the Kings (25-35-6 for 56 points, on a three-game win streak, 6-3-1 in their last 10, but still last in the Western Conference, starting a stretch of nine home games in a row and continuing a run of 14 home games out of 15):
= Vs. Toronto, Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports West
= Vs. Minnesota, Staples Center, Saturday at 1 p.m., Fox Sports West
Also this week for the Ducks (26-31-8 for 60 points, tied with San Jose for next-to-last in the West):
= At Chicago, Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., Fox Sports West
= At Colorado, Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., NBCSN
= Vs. Toronto, Honda Center, Friday at 7 p.m., Prime Ticket
= Vs. Minnesota, Honda Center, Sunday at 6 p.m., Prime Ticket

**The XFL Week 5 has your L.A. Wildcats (1-3) playing host to Tampa Bay (1-3) in an odd night game – Sunday, 6 p.m., ESPN, Dignity Sports Health Park.
The rest of the schedule:
Seattle at Houston, Saturday at 11 a.m., Channel 7
New York at Dallas, Saturday at 2 p.m., Channel 11
St. Louis at D.C., Sunday at noon, FS1

**The PGA Champions Tour comes to Newport Beach Country Club for the Hoag Classic, Friday through Sunday, Golf Channel (3-5 p.m. Friday, 2:30-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday).
Kirk Triplett is the defending champion. The field includes Fred Couples, John Daly, John Cook, Ernie Els, Hale Irwin, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Tom Kite, Bernhard Langer,  Tom Lehman, Mark O’Meara, Rocco Mediate, Jose Maria Olazabal, Corey Pavin, Vijay Singh and Duffy Waldorf.

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