Play it Forward: March 25-31 — With big-time dancing at Staples Center, everyone else must leave, except the Dodgers and Angels can return from Arizona

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

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

Wichita State’s mascot is named Wushock — not SpongeBob ShockerPants — as we’ll soon see at Staples Center this weekend. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT WEST REGIONAL:
Arizona vs. Ohio State, 4:47 p.m.
Wichita State vs. LaSalle, approx. 7 p.m.
Thursday, Staples Center, both on TBS
Final is Saturday, TBA.

Our bracket has been perfect to date. A perfect mess.

For some reason, Leonardo DiCaprio wore a Wichita State baseball cap to a Lakers’ finals game in 2009. Even Tobey Maguire can’t figure it out.

We shouldn’t be shocked by now, because nowhere is it messier than in the wild, wild West Region. Expect more zigging and less Zag-ing with the four survivors who have a fortuitous meeting at Staples Center as part of the Sweet 16.
After the round of 32, left by the wayside are West Regional seeds 1 (Gonzaga), 3 (New Mexico), 4 (Kansas State), 5 (Wisconsin), 7 (Notre Dame) and 8 (Pittsburgh). The last five of them went out after the first full day. Now it’s a “Who’s What?” coming to L.A. Where’s the star power? Arizona (27-7), who lost three times to UCLA during the season and couldn’t get a sniff of the Pac-12 title, is our most recognizable suspect in this survival pool with senior Solomon Hill (Fairfax High) and junior Jordin Mayes (Westchester), who helped figure out the best way to outsmart Harvard in the third round. Wichita State (28-8) may have seemingly the easiest path to an Elite Eight, but they’ll likely get a road block by the winner of Arizona-Ohio State in Saturday West Regional final.
How will this end up? We’re likely to get better answers if we sent that AT&T guy to sit at the tiny round table with kindergarten students and ask them if a higher seed is better than having a low seed at this point in the Big Dance.
Elsewhere, with UCLA, Colorado and Cal already punched out, there’s a shot that Pac-12 tournament champ Oregon, a ridiculously low 12 seed, can conquer Midwest No. 1 seed and overall favorite Louisville on Friday (4:15 p.m., Channel 2).
The rest of the games:
Thursday:
Marquette vs. Miami in Washington D.C., 4:15 p.m., Channel 2
Syracuse vs. Indiana in Washington D.C., approx. 6:45 p.m., Channel 2
Friday:
Kansas vs. Michigan in North Texas, 4:37 p.m., TBS
Michigan State vs. Duke in Indianapolis, approx. 7 p.m., Channel 2
Florida Gulf Coast vs. Florida in North Texas, approx. 7:15 p.m., TBS

BEST OF THE REST: Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Q and A: Danica Patrick, on why she’s not fit for “DWTS,” fried pork rinds or racing a car at 62 … but is just fine with prime-time slime, if the kids are doin’ it

Danica Patrick, center, walks to her car with publicists Wendy Belk and Haley Moore before qualifying Friday for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Fontana. Patrick starts in the 40th spot for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 — far from the pole spot she had at the Daytona 500.(AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

STORY POSTED: 2:30 p.m.
STORY UPDATED: 8 p.m.:

Danica Patrick seems to embrace the idea that, if she doesn’t win Sunday’s Auto Club 400 in Fontana, she’s got a decent chance of getting slimed Saturday night.
That comes with being nominated for the annual Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Awards.
“Does everyone get slimed?” she asked Friday afternoon while sitting on the back of a golf cart on the Auto Club Speedway infield, chilling out near her tour bus just before qualifying in the 40th position for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race.
“If it happens, it’ll be for all the right reasons. I hope.”

www.people.com

After today’s practice run, she’ll race up Interstate 10 — not on a helicopter, mind you — toward USC’s Galen Center for the 5 p.m. live show that the kids’ network puts on each year. No word if she’ll be joined by current boyfriend and fellow NASCAR competitor, Ricky Steinhouse Jr. — he starts 31st in Sunday’s race. But we know who he’d vote for in the category of “Favorite Female Athlete,” with Patrick up against both Serena and Venus Williams, plus Gabby Douglas.
(UPDATE: Patrick won the award — presented by Dwight Howard – and did not have green gooey goop dropped on her. Although she said after giving away a handful of high-fives to kids along the stage as she came up to accept the award: “I always wanted to get slimed, and it sure felt like it coming up here.” Howard then got slimed moments later.)
We noticed that the ballot listing Patrick’s qualifications specifies she is “a spokeswoman, a model and a race car driver! … She’s a champion who deserves a whole lot of praise! Get this babe a blimp!”
Funny, but when we checked Patrick’s Wikipedia page, it seemed like something was backwards.
So we went to the source. Patrick, who celebrates a birthday Monday, was ready for the usual age-old questions:

Q: It says right there on your Wikipedia page that you’re “an American auto racing driver, model and advertising spokeswoman.” Sound pretty accurate, in order of importance?
A:
Isn’t model and ‘advertising spokeswoman’ kinda similar?
Q: No, not at all. We’ve seen pictures of you as a model. You’re selling different things there. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Wait, Danica Patrick can only handle half a Martinsville hot dog?

The Jesse Jones frank with chili, slaw and onions, is a “must have” on any visit to Martinsville Speedway, according to a piece recently on www.aroundthetrackonline.com. Dale Earnhardt Jr. once told ESPN’s Terry Blout: “Yeah, I eat about three or four a day.”

When the reigning queen of NASCAR held a press gathering at the Auto Club Speedway this morning, prior to the first practice and qualifying for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, the subject of hot dogs came up.

Danica Patrick says she can only do a half Martinsville dog. No matter how good it might be. Just because that’s how she rolls.

We talked to her following practice for a Q-and-A that will run in Sunday’s editions, quizzing her more on her chances of making the “Dancing With the Stars” field rather than the final 43 in any left-turn event this season.

Before she went out and qualified 40th today, Patrick answered things about how unhappy she was with the Fontana Speedway’s surface, her performance after four NASCAR races so far, and other stuff — all leading up to that frank question about her distaste for certain wieners:

Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Weekly media column version 03.22.13: Cousin Sal’s L.A. Marathon video, more RJ Bell bracket advice, and ESPN’s new soccer analyst

What made it into this week’s media column: What are the odds that the broadcast team — in this case, Tim Brando and Mike Gminski, with reporter Otis Livingston — mentions that UCLA is a three-point underdog against Minnesota in tonight’s NCAA tournament game (truTV, approx. 7 p.m.)? In a version of the previous blog post we had up Thursday, we’ve asked some gambling “experts” why there still seems to be an elephant in the room when it comes to Vegas-related information. We also have more on the Auto Club 400 coverage on Sunday and an NFL Network special about player safety coming up Monday.

What didn’t make it into the column:

== The video above best illustrates how “Cousin Sal” Iacono duped participants in Sunday’s L.A. Marathon with the old glued-down water bottle trick, the results of which airs on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” earlier this week. Shouldn’t the runners know by now when they see him on the course that something’s up? Especially when he’s at Mile 11 — right in front of the “JKL” studios on Hollywood Blvd.
“I’ve been lucky enough not to get punched,” said Iacono. “But we’re not total villains here — they were giving out real water about 40 yards down the street. I don’t have any body guards to help me — just a couple of 19-year-old PAs if anyone wants to take a run at me.”
In past years, Iacono’s stunts have included asking runners to participate in a limbo contest, fill out an NCAA Tournament bracket, or take money from him if they promise to quit at that point because “they aren’t going to win anyway.” Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Why so much a fine line about the NCAA Tournament games’ betting lines? Why be part of the ‘hypocrisy’ when talking UCLA-Minnesota?

Want an upset pick during the first weekend of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament? It’ll come when one of the broadcasting teams happens to reveal a point spread during a game you’re watching.

Don’t wait for it.

The fact that sixth-seeded UCLA started off in Vegas sports books as a brow-raising 2 ½-point underdog against No. 11 seed Minnesota in Friday’s second-round game in Austin, Tex. — and then the line was then pushed to a 3 once bettors started laying money — has become an intriguing angle to this contest.

Those watching on TV, with an office pool bracket in front of them full of red marks following Thursday’s first full day of contests, will likely be aware of what’s going on in relation to a key injury suffered by UCLA’s Jordan Adams during the Pac-12 tournament last Friday.

But try tying that into why the Bruins have become a real gamble among Vegas bettors, and the odds are real that someone at the NCAA, or an advertiser, or at the very least a network exec will become the ones most upset.

With all the high-speed media technology available to find info like that – except during the course of the live televised game itself – does it seem we reached a point where we can stop pretending this point-spread elephant in the room doesn’t exist, even if you’re treading into quasi-amateur college sports territory littered with NCAA-sponsored anti-gambling PSAs?

“I can see why they don’t want that information out there, but it’s hypocrisy for the NCAA, especially since it doesn’t cost them any money,” said Pregame.com’s RJ Bell, the popular media go-to Vegas-based betting expert. Continue reading

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email