Play it forward: Dec. 20-26 on your sports calendar

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(AP Photo/Henny Ray Abrams)
Connecticut celebrates in the final seconds of its 81-50 win over Ohio State in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:

MONDAY

NFL: Chicago at Minnesota, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

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Why wouldn’t the Vikings have moved this to, say, their future home of L.A.? Paramedics will be standing by with snow shovels and chest paddles to treat those who needed to be here. Our plans include smuggling some Peppermint Schnapps into our living room.

NBA: Clippers vs. Minnesota, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Somehow, Kevin Love’s T-wolves made it out of the Twin Cities just in time. The Clippers’ home losing streak sits at just three for the time being.

NHL: Ducks at Boston, 4:30 p.m., Versus:

Nothing like a little national exposure for the Anaheimers.

TUESDAY

Women’s college basketball: Florida State at UConn, 4 p.m., ESPN2:

UConn coach Geno Auriemma said after an historic Win No. 88 in a row on Sunday: “If we were fortunate enough to win Tuesday night, that just means we did something in women’s basketball that’s pretty special.”

College basketball: UCLA vs. Montana State, Pauley Pavilion, 7:30 p.m., BruinTV.com:

It should be noted: After a four-game losing string, this Bruins team is just 85 wins from tying their school winning streak.

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College basketball: USC at Tennessee, 4 p.m., Prime:

Vols hoops coach Bruce Pearl said it about the press he’s received in the wake of an eight-game SEC suspension for recruiting violations: “What I was hoping for was that some other dumbass would get on the front page and take me off the hook. I miss Lane Kiffin.” That’s just as hilarious as the way Pearl’s team has been playing lately. The former No. 7 Vols (7-2) followed a win over then-No. 3 Pitt with head-scratching upset losses to Oakland and Charlotte. See if Pat Summit has any answers.

NHL: Kings at Colorado, 6:30 p.m., Prime:

The Kings finish their roller-coaster roadie against an Avalanche team they knocked off, 6-4, back in late October, when Brad Richardson, who started the night with 30 career goals in 254 games, got his first NHL hat trick. Richardson, who missed the last four games with an upper-body injury, has been activated in time for this one. Marco Sturm could also be available by this one. Good deal. The Avs have been hot.

NBA: Lakers vs. Milwaukee, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

Check your tickets again. This is against “MIL,” not “MIA.” A huge difference.

College football: Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl, St. P’tersburg, Fla.: L’ville vs. Southern Mississippi, 5 p.m., ESPN:

How many ‘postrophies can they get in one lousy b’wl game?

WEDNESDAY

NBA: Clippers vs. Houston, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Can Yao Ming at least visit his favorite Chinatown restaurant while he’s in the neighborhood?

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College football: Maaco Bowl, Las Vegas: Boise State vs. Utah, 5 p.m., ESPN:

A Pac-10 team could have should have been slotted for this one, but not enough were bowl eligible. Instead, we’ll have to accept future Pac-12 participant Utah, against the team that should have been BCS worthy if they had a reliable field-goal kicker. That’s the gamble you take in Vegas.

THURSDAY

NHL: Kings vs. Edmonton, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:

These young Oilers have one of the worst records in the league, but they have that No. 1 draft pick, Taylor Hall, right? Continue . . .

College basketball: USC vs. Lehigh, Galen Center, 5:30 p.m., USCTrojans.com: UCLA vs. UC Irvine, Pauley Pavilion, 7:30 p.m., Prime:

Here’s the final tuneups for both teams before the Pac-10 season starts. Make it count.

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College football: Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego: San Diego State vs. Navy, 5 p.m., ESPN:

It’s a natural fit, these two, but an unnatural annual event in the bowl lineup.

NFL: Carolina at Pittsburgh, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network:

Neither of these two teams are on Bill Cowher’s coaching wish list?

FRIDAY

College football: Hawaii Bowl, Honolulu: Hawaii vs. Tulsa, 5 p.m., ESPN:

It’s not an Hawaii home game, it just seems that way. The Rainbow Warriors may someday return to the Sugar Bowl (remember ’08, Colt Brennan’s team lost 41-10 to Matt Stafford and Georgia). But for now, they’ll have to settle for hosting a bunch of travelers from Oklahoma who don’t mind roasted pig in a one-horse open lei..

SATURDAY

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NBA: Lakers vs. Miami, Staples Center, 2 p.m., Channel 7:

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Santa sez: Believe the hype. Snoop Dogg sez: I believe you’re in my seat. The NBA has been dreaming of this Christmas, just like the ones it used to know when Shaq came back to L.A. loaded with gifts for the local kids. This time, the Lakers can’t really be all that excited to face a squad that may be riding a 14-game winning streak and has been whipping their opponents by nearly 20 points a contest. Yet, can the Wade-James-Bosh trio stand up to the Gasol-Bynum-Artest front line? Let’s just make sure no seat cushions are tossed onto the floor. And if this one isn’t to your taste, the NBA has four others on TV today: Chicago at New York (9 a.m., ESPN), Boston at Orlando (11:30 a.m., Channel 7), Denver at Oklahoma City (5 p.m., ESPN) and Portland at Golden State (7:30 p.m., ESPN).

NFL: Dallas at Arizona, 4:30 p.m., NFL Network:

Nope, the league’s own channel can’t flex out of this mess.

SUNDAY

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NHL: Kings vs. Ducks, Staples Center, 6 p.m., FSW:

Even if you believe the numbers — it’s all even in the all-time series now at 43-43-4 after the Ducks took a 2-0 win a few weeks ago in Anaheim — the fact the Ducks have more Stanley Cup victories in a shorter time frame really gets under the Kings’ fans skin. On the day after Christmas, it’s back to getting into a fightin’ mood.

NBA: Clippers vs. Phoenix, Staples Center, noon, Prime:

In their previous loss to the Suns back on the day after Thanksgiving, the Clippers fell behind by 21 after the first quarter in Phoenix. And some 17,000 Suns fans still witnessed it.

College football: Little Caesars Bowl, Detroit: Toledo vs. Florida International, 5:30 p.m., ESPN:

This could be done in 30 minutes or less.

NFL: Minnesota at Philadelphia, 5:20 p.m., Channel 4:

NBC opted out of the previously-scheduled Chargers-Bengals bash for more Favre-Vick panache.

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