Play It Forward: March 17-23 on your sports calendar — That UCLA-Tulsa NCAA Tournament opener 20 years ago sets the stage for this Steve Alford-Danny Manning matchup

tulsa_ok_1920THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

NO. 1: COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT:
UCLA vs. TULSA:
At Viejas Arena on San Diego State campus, Friday at approx. 7 p.m., truTV:
O'BannonIn the book, “The Bruin 100: The Greatest Games in the History of UCLA Basketball,” the contest that UCLA played against Tubby Smith’s Tulsa team in the opening round of  the 1994 NCAA Tournament is ranked No. 17 of all time. Greater than the 1970 NCAA championship win over Jacksonville (which is No. 18), the 1967 NCAA championship win over Dayton (in at No. 19) and the 1972 NCAA championship win over Florida State (which is No. 20). Just not “great” in the way you’d think it would be. As author Scott Howard-Cooper writes, that was “the day the Bruins learned the exact location of Tulsa.”  The Golden Hurricane’s 112-102 trouncing of the Bruins will have taken place most 20 years ago to the date when the two schools meet in the opener of the 2014 tournament in San Diego, and it provides a mysterious back story. Junior Ed O’Bannon said before the contest: “To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know Tulsa was in Oklahoma.” UCLA, which had been ranked No. 1 during the regular season when it started 14-0, had come into the tournament as a fifth seed and had to play this Midwest Regional contest against Tulsa in Oklahoma City, just 65 miles from their backyard. The Bruins trailed 46-17 at one point. It was 63-38 at halftime. It was the most points surrendered by a UCLA team in tournament play.
jim_harrick “It wasn’t a bad dream,” coach Jim Harrick said. “It was a nightmare.” As for O’Bannon, he had 30 points and 18 rebounds as UCLA cut the deficit to 12 with 12 minutes left, but the rally faded. It should be noted, UCLA did win the national title the very next year, as O’Bannon took charge. At least this current Bruins team, and coach Steve Alford in particular, should know that Danny Manning-coached Tulsa (21-12), winners of Conference USA, started this season 0-4 with double-digit losses to Wichita State and Creighton (their only games against a ranked opponent) then finished on an 11-0 run.
If the Bruins win, their second-round game Sunday would be against either Virginia Commonwealth or Stephen F. Austin. We could give an educated guess as to what city each of those schools are located, but our Mapquest app just shut down, thinking we were joking.

BEST OF THE REST:

MONDAY

NHL: KINGS vs. PHOENIX, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
The Coyotes peppered Jonathan Quick in a 3-0 win last time out on Jan. 28, getting the shutout for Thomas Griess.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT BRACKET, 5 p.m., ESPNU:
march-madness-bracketology-t-shirt.american-apparel-unisex-fitted-tee.lemon.w760h760What does the USC women’s basketball team and the UCLA men’s basketball team have in common? Yes, both are Pac-12 conference champion reps going to the NCAA tournament. And each has a sophomore point guard named Jordan Adams. Seriously. The 21-12 USC team led by coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke were the first in conference history to win four games in four days to win the tournament, upsetting Stanford and Oregon State along the way. ESPN’s bracketologist Charlie Creme has the Trojans as a No. 11 seed playing at Gonzaga in the first round. He also has 18-14 Cal State Northridge as a No. 16 seed playing No. 1 Stanford at Pauley Pavilion. Aside from that, the other individual gems playing in this event are (but not limited to) North Carolina’s Diamond DaShields, South Carolina’s Tiffany Mitchell and Notre Dame’s Jewell Loyd. If only the men’s bracket had such sparkle.

NBA: CLIPPERS at DENVER
7:30 p.m., Prime, ESPN:
Irish_cloverEven with an 11-game winning streak, it’s never the right time to go to Colorado for the second game of a back-to-back, but that’s the situation. Last visit to Denver on Feb. 3, the Nuggets’ Randy Foye hit a 30-footer at the buzzer to win it, despite 36 from Blake Griffin. The Nuggets just finished a five-game roadie by knocking off Miami, then losing to Atlanta the next night.
(Hang on: 12 NBA teams play tonight on St. Patrick’s Day, but not the Boston Celtics?)

EXHIBITION BASEBALL: ANGELS vs. SAN FRANCISCO, 1 p.m. FSW; CLEVELAND vs. CINCINNATI, 1 p.m., MLB Network:
The day everyone wears green uniforms. Even the Reds.

TUESDAY

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT:
Albany vs. Mount St. Mary’s, 3:30 p.m.; North Carolina State vs. Xavier, 6 p.m., truTV:
That time again to figure out where truTV is on your cable box. Probably right there near CourtTV. Which, if you think about it, isn’t that better for college basketball games?

WEDNESDAY

NBA: LAKERS vs. SAN ANTONIO
Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet, ESPN:
Lakers Spurs Basketball.JPEG-087a0No matter they aren’t the team they used to be, the Lakers still received thunderous boos during introductions before their game in San Antonio a couple nights ago. The Spurs then deep fried them in a 34-point win. The Lakers have had five days to think about it – you’d think plenty of time for even Steve Nash to heal up and give it one last try. But no. And the fans may still be booing, this time at Staples Center. The Spurs, having won their last nine in a row, have the best record now in the NBA at this point. And these two still have a scheduled matchup on the final day for the season on April 16. For some reason, ESPN has decided to spice this broadcast up by having Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons as the analysts with Mike Tirico. Maybe because Hubie Brown couldn’t bare to watch it.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT:
Cal Poly vs. Texas Southern, 3:30 p.m.; Iowa vs. Tennessee, 6 p.m., truTV:
This is where Cal State Northridge could have been. Woulda, shoulda, mighta.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NATIONAL INVITATIONAL TOURNAMENT:
UC Irvine at SMU, 6 p.m., ESPN2:
Here’s to the losers. Or, those who won their conference regular-season championships but just couldn’t go the extra yard. ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU have games in the 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. slot today. It’ll end some time in Madison Square Garden, where St. John’s and Steve Lavin may even get another home game out of it (they open Tuesday at home against at 4 p.m. on ESPNU)
Other opening round games today: LSU at San Francisco (7 p.m., ESPNU, with Bill Walton as the analyst) and Utah Valley at Cal (7:30 p.m., ESPN3)

THURSDAY

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT:
Highlights of the first real day of wall-to-wall coverage includes: Ohio State vs. Dayton (9:15 a.m., Channel 2), Cincinnati vs. Harvard (11:10 a.m., TNT), Oregon vs. BYU (12:10 p.m., truTV), Arizona State vs. Texas (6:40 p.m., Channel 2) and San Diego State vs. New Mexico State (7 p.m., truTV).

NHL: KINGS vs. WASHINGTON

Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., FSW:
p1.alex-ovechkin.getty_These Capitals have not been capitalizing on Alex Ovechkin’s talents this year, hanging around with a .500 record and content with trying to land the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. The Russian star may lead the league with 45 goals, but he has a minus-34 mark in games the Caps have lost, versus a plus-7 in their victories. Ovechkin and the Capitals have a meeting first with the Ducks in Anaheim on Tuesday before this one.

NHL: DUCKS at SAN JOSE
Honda Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
The Sharks keep circling the top spot in the Pacific Division, and since the Ducks have slipped a bit lately, they can finally see some daylight. These two teams have this game and another on April 9 left for tie-breaking purposes.

FRIDAY

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT:
In addition to UCLA’s opener capping off the night in San Diego, we’ve got highlighted: Duke vs. Mercer (9:15 a.m., Channel 2), Baylor vs. Nebraska (9:40 a.m., truTV), Stanford vs. New Mexico (10:40 a.m., TBS), Gonzaga vs. Oklahoma State (1:40 p.m. TNT), VCU vs. Stephen F. Austin (4:30 p.m., truTV) and Kentucky vs. Kansas State (6:40 p.m., Channel 2).

NBA: LAKERS vs. WASHINGTON
Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
The Wizards’ 116-111 win over the visiting Lakers back on Nov. 26 as John Wall had 31 points and Nene had 30.

ARENA FOOTBALL: LA KISS at ORLANDO
4:30 p.m., ESPN3:
From what we gather, in their AFL debut last week, the Kiss won on a field goal as time expired, 41-38. This week, they’re off to see the Predators. Which usually isn’t something a person ought to be looking forward to.

SATURDAY

corbinellis112213MLB: DODGERS vs. ARIZONA:
At Sydney, Australia, 1 a.m. and 7 p.m., L.A. SportsNet:
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G’day and pull up a chair from a cricket field for the upside launch of the 2014 MLB regular season. Vin Scully will make the trip, and Clayton Kershaw has agreed to the opening day pitching assignment – who knows, maybe Cy Young is a term of endearment for something held in high esteem on this continent. He understands the counter-clockwise problems all this could bring. “It’s definitely not an ideal situation travel-wise, but I guess we’ve got to make it work,” said Kershaw of the 15-hour plane flight. So let’s do the math with this 18-hour forward-skewed time warp: The first of this two-game series begins at 7 p.m. Saturday, but it’ll be 1 a.m. in L.A. Then the 1 p.m. game Sunday becomes a 7 p.m. game here on Saturday, as Hyun-Jin Ryu pitches.

NHL: KINGS vs. FLORIDA, Staples Center, 1 p.m., FSW:
A 3-0 win in Florida back on Oct. 13 was so long ago, Ben Scrivens was in the nets for the Kings.

NBA: CLIPPERS vs. DETROIT, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime:
DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 21 rebounds — dunking seven times with a layup — in the Clippers 112-103 win at Detroit on MLK Day last January.

MLS: GALAXY at REAL SALT LAKE:
1 p.m., NBC Sports Net:
This is getting a little monotonous. There must be a reason why two of the strongest teams in the league are playing each other in the first two games of the season (they meet again in mid-July). The Salty Lakers outlasted the Galaxy 1-0 in the opener on March 8 when Robbie Keane couldn’t convert a extra-time penalty kick against Nick Rimando, who got his 109th career shutout, three short of Kevin Hartman’s league record.

SUNDAY

NASCAR: SPRINT CUP AUTO CLUB 400
Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, noon, Channel 11:
So what about all that kind of a crazy, weird, wild finish at last year’s event. While Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin decided to renew their track feud while jockeying for position on the final lap, they ended up taking each other out – Hamlin crashed into an inside retaining wall – and Kyle Busch managed to get around the mess to win the thing, his 25th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory.  Dale Earnhardt Jr., came in second and Logano was third. Hamlin, the race’s pole-sitter stuck with a 25th-place finish, had to be airlifted to the hospital with a fractured vertebra. Hamlin, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, missed the next four races and suffered the effects of that injury the rest of the season. Whatever happens this time, it’ll start with a Billy Ray Cyrus concert and a flyover by the Blue Angels before the green flag drops.
Qualifying is Friday (4:30 p.m., FS1). Practice sessions are Friday (noon) and Saturday (9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.) on Fox Sports 1. The Nationwide Series NNS 300 race is Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN), with qualifying Saturday at 10:35 a.m.

NBA: LAKERS vs. ORLANDO, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
The Lakers have accomplished something this year that Orlando hasn’t: 20 victories.

PGA: ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL, final round, at Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Fla., 11 a.m., Channel 4:
World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship - Final RoundSure enough, Tiger Woods has won the last two, four of the last six and eight of the last 14 played in this century. They’d hand him a trophy if he just walked out on the 18th green with an ice tea/lemonade concoction in his hand and waved to the crowd with the other. Despite the recent back problems, he says he’s not going to let Arnie down and plans to play. He does have a standing invite, right? Golf Channel has the first two rounds Thursday and Friday at noon; NBC has the final two rounds Saturday and Sunday.

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