Highlights of the week ahead in sports, both here and afar:
THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
Super Bowl XLVI: New England vs. N.Y. Giants, Sunday in Indianapolis, 3:30 p.m., Channel 4:
Neither the Patriots nor the Giants are like a virgin when it comes to Super Bowl history — not like Madonna, who will be the one dragged out this year for the 12-minutes-of-agony halftime show. More to the point, aside from their names, there’s not a lot new when you’re putting New England and New York together in the same sandpit. What’s old is what everyone wants to talk about. Like how the Giants outlasted the Patriots in Week 9, 24-20, at Foxboro, Mass., when Eli Manning capped off a final drive by hitting Jake Ballard on a 1-yard TD pass with 15 seconds left. “I knew we would win,” Giants running back Brandon Jacobs said. “It definitely took me back to the Super Bowl.” That would be the older news, when Manning rallied the Giants to a 17-14 victory in the 2008 title game, hitting Plaxico Burress on a 13-yard TD with 35 seconds to go and ending the Patriots’ perfect season. “I’d rather be down by three with a minute-thirty (left) than up by four with a minute-thirty with Tom Brady, with their offense on the field,” Manning said after the recent regular-season win. “You like those situations where you have an opportunity to go win the game.” Now, on the field where his brother, Peyton, may never play again, Eli will be the Manning on the spot. The Giants, just 9-7 in the regular season, have been playing elimination football since having to win three of their last four games just to make the playoffs, then snatching three playoffs victories — the last two on the road. The 13-3 Patriots didn’t beat anyone with a winning record until the AFC title game — including that rout of 8-8 Denver in the first round. But they haven’t lost since the last meeting with the Giants, pilling up 10 in a row and averaging more than 35 points a contest during the stretch. Since each team has suspect defenses — the Giants have given up 376.4 yards a game, which is better than the Patriots’ 411.1 a week — this could get pretty offensive. Like, say, Madonna dragging out her training bra-cones. They say revenge games make for better storylines. Even if a Packers-Broncos matchup might have been far more compelling.
NBA: Clippers vs. Oklahoma City, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Russell Westbrook said he hopes his decision to make a long-term commitment to stay with OKC will end rumors of a rift between him and fellow All-Star Kevin Durant. “I wish it would have never started,” the former UCLA standout said at a press conference to announce his five-year, $80 million contract extension. “Me and Kevin get along great on and off the floor, and now we’re going to be together for at least five more years. Hopefully we can stay together.” Meanwhile, Eddie Johnson of HoopsHype.com came out with his top 25 players in the NBA at this moment. While Durant wedged himself in at No. 4, Westbrook has made it to No. 12. “If Westbrook realized 17 and 10 is better than 20 and 5, he would be considered the second best point guard on the list (behind No. 10 Chris Paul),” wrote Johnson. “He is the best athletic PG I have ever seen, but his demeanor on the court is deflating and needs to change if he ever wants to move up further on this list.” Humpf.
NBA: Lakers vs. Charlotte, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
And you thought the Washington Wizards were bad? These Bobcats lost twice to the Wiz last week, have an eight-game losing streak and, at 3-18 coming into this week, stand with the worst record in the league. Despite the fact 21-year-old rookie guard Kemba Walker (20 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists) recorded a triple-double the other night. But then again, we know what kind of trouble — with a capital T — the Lakers seem to have with Charlotte over the years.
NHL: Kings vs. Columbus, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
The Kings come off an All-Star layoff that lasted, what, nine weeks? And Jonathan Quick isn’t even well rested, having been forced to play in Ottawa for the annual exhibition. One of the few Blue Jacket victories this season was just a couple of weeks ago at Staples Center, when goalie Curtis Sanford recorded the team’s only shutout, 1-0, in an afternoon contest where Quick had to take the loss, giving up that one late goal.
NBA: Clippers at Utah, 7:30 p.m., Prime, ESPN:
The Clippers were in Salt Lake City just a couple of weeks ago — and embarrassed in a 29-point loss where the Jazz had a 56-36 advantage on points in the paint, 16 off dunks — five of which were alley-oops.
High school football: National college signing day: 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., ESPNU; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., CBS Sports Network:
Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel is part of the CBS coverage, and new Bruins head man Jim Mora Jr., is supposed to be one of the coaches interviewed to assess their team’s talent haul. On ESPN’s coverage, the network says at least 10 players, four of whom are ranked No. 1 at their position on the ESPNU 150, will make the college commitment decisions live on their show.
College basketball: UCLA at Washington, 6 p.m., ESPN2; USC at Washington State, 7 p.m.:
The fact that the Huskies share the lead in the Pac-12 to this point is beside the point. The last time the Bruins won in Seattle, freshman Trevor Ariza scored five of his 21 points in overtime to secure a victory in 2004, upping UCLA’s overall mark to 11-17. Nate Robinson had 18 points and Brandon Roy had 16 for the Huskies.
NBA: Clippers vs. Denver, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:
Nuggets coach George Karl said it about the fact his team plays in L.A. tonight, then goes home the next night to meet up with the Lakers, then has to fly to Portland for the third game in three nights on Saturday: “That has to be the most sadistic three games that the NBA doled out this year. If anyone else has three tougher games in a row, I’d like to hear about it.” Add to the fact that the Clippers and Nuggets played each other just the other night.
NBA: Lakers at Denver, 7:30 p.m., Channel 9, ESPN:
The Grammy Awards are just around the corner, meaning this is the first of six in a row away from Staples Center for the Lakers until Feb. 12. Meaning, they sweep, and they’re finally over the .500 mark on the road. Sure. Ninety-two points was good enough for the Lakers to beat the Nuggets on Dec. 31. Ninety wasn’t enough to beat them in Denver on Jan. 1. Either way, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol enjoyed large point production in each.
NHL: Kings at St. Louis, 5 p.m., FSW:
The first of six in a row on the road for the Kings, who’ve already defeated the Blues twice this year, once with each goalie. It’s the Blues’ first game since Jan. 24 — 11 days off — and they’ve lost two in a row, to Pittsburgh and Detroit.
Men’s college volleyball: UCLA at USC, Galen Center, 7 p.m.:
The latest USA Today poll had the 9-1 Bruins (4-0 in the MPSF) at No. 3 and the 4-3 Trojans (3-3 in league) at No. 5, but that was before they had a three-game match losing streak in there.
NBA: Lakers at Utah, 6 p.m., Channel 9:
The Lakers’ first (and, for a long time, only) road win of the year happened on Jan. 11. Here in Salt Lake City. In overtime. Thanks to 40 points from Kobe.
NBA: Clippers at Washington, 4 p.m., Prime:
And the Clippers start a six-game roadie in D.C, again missing an invite to the White House, but allowing themselves a chance to marvel at just how spectacular a dunker JaVale McGee can be.
NFL: Pro Football Hall of Fame announcement, 1 p.m., NFL Network:
Two former Los Angeles Rams — running back Jerome Bettis and defensive end Kevin Greene — join former Los Angeles Raiders receiver Tim Brown among the 12 candidates up for induction. Expect former coach Bill Parcells to get enough love for enshrinement.
NHL: Kings at Carolina, 4 p.m., FSW:
Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward tied a franchise record with his 2-1 win against the Jets last week. He’s given up two or fewer goals in nine consecutive games (5-2-2, 1.54 GAA), tying the single-season Hartford/Carolina record established by Arturs Irbe in 1999 and by Kevin Weekes in 2002.
College basketball: UCLA at Washington State, 2 p.m., USC at Washington, 8 p.m., FSW:
The last time that the Trojans won in Seattle? Just last March, 62-60, when Jio Fontan scored 20 points and Nikola Vucevic added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Those were the days.
Series: “Feherty Live from Super Bowl XLVI,” Golf Channel, 10 p.m.:
Before the second season of David Feherty’s chat show begins in late February, he’ll do this hour-long special, performing before a live theater audience and bringing on folks from the sports and entertainment field.
Bowling: Chris Paul Celebrity Invitational, 1 p.m. ESPN:
The Clippers’ new kingpin does his annual charity event on the hardwood, taped a couple of weeks ago at Lucky Strikes in L.A. Live. Blake Griffin, Reggie Bush, Michael Strahan, Jerry Ferrara and Drew Carey joined in.
Golf: PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Ariz., final round, noon, Channel 2:
Don’t waste this opportunity for some pre-kickoff golf on Super Bowl Sunday from the course where yelling is encouraged.