THIS WEEK’S BEST BET
NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT BRACKET:
Sunday at 3 p.m., Channel 2:
If you’re judging it simply on style points, UCLA’s basketball team didn’t necessarily dazzle anyone with last season’s first Vegas-hosted Pac-12 Tournament. Although the Bruins came in as the regular-season champs and the top seed, and then made it to the tournament final shorthanded only to lose to Oregon, who can overlook the way it all started – a sluggish win over Arizona State wasn’t as distracting as the new “impact camo” uniforms that Adidas forced UCLA’s roster wear. While it wasn’t the full blue T-shirt and crazy striped pants ensemble that had alums and students writing letters of desperation athletic director Dan Guerrero, a less gaudy white version had the Associated Press nonetheless refer to it as something that “looked like pajamas.” The unis were retired after that game, and eventually, so was Ben Howland, whose team lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament to Minnesota.
Gearing up for this year’s post-season festival, the Bruins are back in some new Adidas garb, something the company calls the “most advanced uniform system and basketball apparel technology so they can take on the challenges and intense play of March.” Seems like an unfair advantage for Steve Alford’s bunch, doesn’t it? These navy and gold T-shirt tops are “inspired by the Los Angeles skyline at night,” the Adidas folks say. That’s all fine, as long as the Bruins don’t get caught up in the nightlife.
UCLA (23-8, 12-6) may have finished with the No. 2 seed, but it isn’t scaring anyone after a head-scratching loss at Washington State in the final conference game. The Bruins start the Pac-12 event on Thursday (6 p.m., Pac-12 Network) against either Oregon or Oregon State. USC (11-20, 2-16) end up as the No. 12 seed and open the tournament Wednesday against Colorado (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network). A UCLA win puts it in Friday’s semifinal (8:30 p.m., FS1), targeting Saturday’s final (3 p.m., FS1).
The Pac-12 Tournament is expected to produce a No. 1 seed for the 68-team NCAA event, even as Arizona (28-3) lost its regular-season finale to Oregon. The Wildcats are also hoping to land a spot in the West bracket that opening in San Diego and goes through to the regional finals in Anaheim. Other probable No. 1 seeds stand with 34-0 Wichita State (which clinched the Missouri Valley Conference tournament), current No. 1 ranked Florida and then it’s a toss up among Villanova, Virginia, Kansas or Wisconsin. With more of a rooting interest in how San Diego State lands – and always trying to find out where Duke lurks — we’ll wait to see how the brackets break out, then listen to the experts who told us so.
THE BEST OF THE REST
NBA: CLIPPERS vs. PHOENIX, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
Matt Barnes had a 28-point night last time the Clippers knocked off the Suns less than a week ago.
NHL: KINGS at CALGARY, 6 p.m., FSW:
Another visit to Calgary in less than two weeks? Fine. Jonathan Quick shut them out 2-0 on Feb. 27.
NHL: DUCKS vs. TORONTO, Honda Center, 7:30 p.m, KDOC:
Phil Kessel’s hat trick led the Maple Leafs over the Ducks in their previous meeting way back on Oct. 22, snapping Anaheim’s seven-game win streak.
WEST COAST CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT FINAL, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, 6 p.m., ESPN:
Just a formality, they say, to let Gonzaga go into the tournament with a head of steam. The semifinals are Monday at 6 p.m. (ESPN) and 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: USC SPRING FOOTBALL PRACTICE, at Howard Jones Field, USC campus, 4 p.m.:
More photo opps for Steve Sarkisian as he takes the Trojans through a 15-practice session climaxed by the spring game at the Coliseum on Saturday, April 19. It’s also more time to watch the progress of redshirt freshman Max Browne, the Trojans proclaimed QB of the future. Current NCAA sanction prevent the public from entering the field, but there’s no stopping you from watching from the nearby Dedeaux Field baseball deck (open to the first 200, but no photographs allowed). Meanwhile, USC’s Pro Day, where NFL scouts come out to do some recon work on Trojan players, is Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. on the infield at Loker Stadium.
NBA: CLIPPERS vs. GOLDEN STATE, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m. Prime:
Things could easily end up where these two meet in the first round of the playoffs about a month from now. The Warriors outrebounded the Clippers 53-34 and outscored them 66-22 in the paint during a 111-92 victory in Oakland on Jan. 30, as the Clippers were still missing Chris Paul. The Clippers point guard had 42 points and 15 assists in an 11-point win in the team’s Staples Center opener back on Halloween, 2013.
NHL: DUCKS at CALGARY, 7 p.m., FSW:
In their 5-2 win over the Flames back on Nov. 29, the Ducks did not have one penalty.
SOCCER: GALAXY vs. CLUB TIJUANA, StubHub Center, 7 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus:
One game into the MLS season, they’re already breaking for extra curricular activities – the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal. This is the first of back-to-back against the Xoloitzcuintles (On March 18, it’s in Mexico).
NHL: KINGS vs. TORONTO, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
On Jim Fox Bobblehead night, the Kings go back to the throwback sweaters. The Maple Leafs may also go back to a Kings’ throwback goalie with Jonathan Bernier, who lost to the Kings 3-1 on Dec. 11 in Toronto.
NBA: LAKERS at OKLAHOMA CITY, 6:30 p.m., TNT:
What’s the value again of playing two consecutive games against the best team in the Western Conference in nationally-televised appearances?
NHL: DUCKS at COLORADO, 6 p.m., FSW:
This Ducks’ trip to Denver probably works into the Kings’ favor (see Saturday)
NBA: CLIPPERS at UTAH, 6 p.m., Prime:
Jamal Crawford had 27 off the bench and Blake Griffin had 25 points and 11 rebounds when the Clippers ran past the Jazz by 15 back on Dec. 1.
NBA: LAKERS at SAN ANTONIO, 5 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
Sure, let’s go back-to-back roadies against the top two teams in the Western Conference. Maybe Gregg Popovich will rest his best.
NHL: KINGS vs. DUCKS, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW, Prime:
All the frills and folly that surrounded their last meeting outdoors at Dodger Stadium are gone, and the Freeway Face-Off returns to full force under the dome. A half dozen wins separate the Pacific leading Ducks from the Kings, with San Jose buffering them, but if this comes down to a shootout, the stats are in the Kings’ favor. And that already includes a 3-2 shootout win over the Ducks back on Dec. 3, the first of Martin Jones’ eight victories in a row to start his career. Still, the Ducks have won two of the three meetings this season – 3-0 at Dodger Stadium and then 2-1 in Anaheim two nights earlier, both against Jonathan Quick. After this, there’s one more meeting, on the final game of the regular season on April 12, also at Staples Center. This, of course, had a new wrinkle with the team’s recent roster changes at the trade deadline.
ARENA FOOTBALL: L.A. KISS at SAN ANTONIO, 5 p.m.:
Pucker up, it’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame kabuki rock band meets indoor sports. And we’ve got to admit, the billboards kind of scare us. The Kiss launch their season against a team called the Talons, with no TV coverage to document it. Before we’re done by the end of July, the 18-game schedule will have some appearances on ESPN2, CBS Sports Net and even Channel 13. Yet, how do we know if Kiss QB Colt Brennan even completes a pass?
BIG WEST TOURNAMENT FINAL, Honda Center, 7:30 p.m., ESPN2:
Last shot for Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge to make themselves relevant for the NIT, CBI or CIT. Quarterfinals are at noon, 2:30 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Thursday on Prime Ticket; semifinals are at 6:30 p.m., and 9 p.m. Friday on ESPNU.
=Mountain West Tournament final, Las Vegas: 3 p.m., Channel 2
=Big East Tournament final, New York: 5:30 p.m., FS1
=Big 12 Tournament final, Kansas City: 6 p.m., ESPN
WRESTLING: FREESTYLE WORLD CUP, Inglewood Forum, final dual meets, 5 p.m.:
When this rolled into town a year ago, the sport of wrestling was in a precarious position. The Olympics put it on notice, so the international organizers staged tours in different cities, trying new scoring and timing rules to bring into the 21st Century and scare up some new attention. This time around, USA Wrestling decided that the dual meet championships will go to the Forum instead of the L.A. Sports Arena, in hopes of waking up some more echoes. “The Forum’s intimate ambiance will make everyone feel as if they they’re a part of the action,” said Sid Greenfeig, the senior VP of West Coast business operations for the former home of the Lakers and Kings, recently reopened as a concert venue and able to seat about 7,500 for this event. Team USA will go up against competitors from Iran, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, India, Japan, Mongolia and Turkey. More info: www.wrestlingworldcup.com. Sessions are broken up into 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday leading into the final dual meets from 5 to 7 p.m.
GOLF: PGA CHAMPIONS TOSHIBA CLASSIC, Newport Beach Country Club, final round, 4 p.m., Golf Channel:
The 20th version of this 50-and-older event makes its way back to the O.C., David Frost acting as the defending champ after going 19-under in the three-round tour to win by five over Fred Couples. Golf Channel has coverage Friday (3:30 p.m.) and Saturday (4 p.m.) as well.
TENNIS: BNP PARIBAS OPEN, at Indian Wells, women’s and men’s final, noon, ESPN2:
While Maria Sharapova heads towards the final match as the defending champ, she’s just the No. 4 seed. She would still have a semifinal meeting against top seed Li Na of China before even getting to the championship. Li defeated countrywoman Zheng Jie in her first match, the second event she has played since winning the Australian Open.
NASCAR: SPRINT CUP FOOD CITY 500, at Bristol, Tenn., Sunday at 9:30 a.m., Channel 11:
One reason to pay attention: The tour will move to Fontana next week. Another reason: The Nationwide event here taking place Saturday is called the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 (ESPN2, 11 a.m.) It replaces the former title sponsor: Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 300. See the irony there?
ACC TOURNAMENT FINAL, Greensboro, N.C., 10 a.m., ESPN:
Leading up to the final bracket, some of the last seeds get sorted out here, as well as in the SEC Tournament final in Atlanta (noon, ESPN) and Big Ten Tournament final in Indianapolis (12:30 p.m., Channel 2)
NBA: CLIPPERS vs. CLEVELAND, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., Prime:
Something to be said about a Kyrie Irving sighting in L.A.