THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT — SWEET 16:
UCLA vs. FLORIDA
South Regional semifinals in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday at approx. 6:45 p.m. Ch. 2:
They meet again.
Billy Donovan’s Gators, holding down the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s tournament, took the Bruins out of business in 2011, ’07 and ‘06, at various stages of the event. The most painful may have been the first – the national championship – which Florida won 73-57, behind Joakim Noah, who capped it off with a monster dunk with 1:09 left. In the national semifinals the follow year, Florida had the same starting lineup and had the same success, 76-66. Their most recent collision was on the second round of the first weekend, a 73-65 Gator victory. Ben Howland was the UCLA head coach in all three of those.
Now it’s Steve Alford’s turn.
The Gators’ 28th consecutive win, by 16 over Pitt in the regional quarterfinals at Orlando, Fla., put them in the Sweet 16 for the fourth consecutive year, looking to make their third Elite Eight in a row. Against Pitt, the Gators, who haven’t lost since Dec. 2, gave up just 45 points — the ninth-straight game in which Florida held its opponent to 65 points or fewer. In the two games this year when UCLA has been held to 65 of less, it has lost both (scoring 63 against Duke and 55 against Washington State in the regular-season finale).
Should UCLA win this one, it has a decent shot at getting a third meeting this year against Stanford, assuming the 10th-seeded Cardinal gets by the 11th-seed Dayton (Thursday, 4:15 p.m.) in the other regional semifinal. In case you were wondering, the Bruins beat Stanford, 91-74 at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 23, then lost in Palo Alto, 83-74, on Feb. 22. They would meet again on Sunday with a chance to go to the Final Four.
BEST OF THE REST
NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT: SECOND ROUND:
With local schools USC and Cal State Northridge gone, the highlights for the Round of 32 include No. 1 seed Tennessee getting another home game (today vs. St. John’s, 6 p.m.) No. 2 seed Baylor at home against Cal (today, 6 p.m.), No. 2 seed Stanford playing Florida State (today, 3:30 p.m.) with a chance to have two more at home, and No. 1 seed Notre Dame having to get past Arizona State (today, 3:30 p.m.) with a chance to play two in a row in South Bend, Ind.
NBA: CLIPPERS vs. MILWAUKEE, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:
The Bucks, winning at a .168 clip with a modest (for them) seven-game losing streak, refuses to give away the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NBA draft to Philadelphia. Milwaukee is just 2-26 against the Western Conference, and 1-7 vs. the Pacific Division.
NHL: KINGS at PHILADELPHIA, 4 p.m., FSW:
Former King Wayne Simmonds scored his 100th career goal and Steve Mason had the shutout when the Flyers snuffed out the Kings 2-0 at Staples Center on Feb. 1.
WORLD FIGURE SKATING CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Saitama, Japan, opening rounds
American ice dancing gold medalists and record-setters Charlie White and Meryl Davis decided to pass on this after their performance in Sochi, Russia. “We feel that our incredibly positive Olympic experience is the culmination of and perfect ending to a wonderful four-year cycle,” White said in the statement. “We will leave our options open for the future and are excited to cheer on our American teammates as they compete in Japan.” Olympic silver medalists Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir, who train with Davis and White, also pulled out. So did women’s gold medalist Adelina Sotnikova of Russia and men’s silver medalist Patrick Chan of Canada. There’s no way men’s gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu, the 19-year-old from Japan who captured gold, is skipping out on this. For the Americans, it’s Gracie Gold, Ashley Wagner and Polina Edmunds represent the women in singles, while Max Aaron and Jeremy Abbott are the U.S. men slotted in here. The event runs through to Sunday.
NBA: LAKERS vs. NEW YORK, Staples Center, 7:30 p.m., TNT:
Could this have been scheduled with any more awkwardness? Maybe the Lakers can take down the “STAY” billboards since Phil Jackson has gone back to the land of Knickerbockers. It’s the first meeting between the two anchor franchises since Jackson’s pre-nup with Lakers governor Jeanie Buss allows him to run a rival team. Will Phil show up, sit next to Jeanie and hold preliminary discussions about brining Mike D’Antoni back to New York?
NHL: KINGS at WASHINGTON, 4 p.m., FSW:
Maybe Dustin Penner can show his old teammates some of the new pancake houses he’s found in the D.C. area.
NBA: CLIPPERS at NEW ORLEANS
5 p.m., Prime Ticket:
The opener of a five-game road trip that doesn’t end until early next month in Phoenix gives us another look at the progress of Anthony Davis. The second-year All-Star had 26 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, while Alexis Ajinca had 19 and 12, but the Pelicans lost to the Clippers by 13 last time they were in the so-called Smoothie King Center on Feb. 24.
NHL: DUCKS at CALGARY, 7 p.m., FSW:
When the Ducks last went to Calgary and endured a 7-2 loss on March 12, winter Andrew Cogliano said: “I think every guy in the room should be completely embarrassed at how they played tonight — every single person. To start a road trip, one of our biggest road trips and having a division rival chasing you down and have a ton on the line, it’s ridiculous how we played.” The Ducks are kind of in that same spot again. This is the first of a week’s worth of road games takes the Pacific Division’s newly installed second-place Ducks north for stops that include Edmonton (Friday, 6:30 p.m., Prime) and Vancouver (Saturday, 7 p.m., KDOC).
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT — SWEET 16:
SOUTH REGIONAL SEMIFINAL at MEMPHIS:
=STANFORD vs. DAYTON, 4:15 p.m., Channel 2
WEST REGIONAL SEMIFINAL at ANAHEIM:
=WISCONSIN vs. BAYLOR, 4:47 p.m., TBS
=ARIZONA vs. SAN DIEGO STATE, approx. 7:15 p.m., Channel 2:
The West No. 1 see Arizona has already defeated San Diego State once this year, 69-60, back on Nov. 14 in San Diego at a time when the Aztecs had not got into the Top 25 yet, and the Wildcats were just at No. 6. Nick Johnson scored 23 and freshman Aaron Gordon had 16 and eight rebounds for Arizona. “We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Johnson said. “It’s big to win at San Diego State because they have a great home record. But we battled.” Meeting again in Anaheim should bring a lot of Aztecs fans as well as Wildcats followers.
NHL: KINGS at PITTSBURGH, 4 p.m., FSW:
The Penguins’ 4-1 win over the struggling Kings just before the Olympic break ended up chasing now franchise winningest goalie Jonathan Quick, who gave up three goals on the first five shots before Martin Jones came in. Two of those goals came while the Penguins’ league-best power-play rotation was on the ice. Quick, by the way, should have some incentive to show up Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. During a 5-0 rout against Finland in the bronze medal game of the recent Winter Olympics, Team USA coach Bylsma left Quick in the entire game to suffer the total embarrassment. With their win against Florida last Saturday, the Kings are 18-8-3 against the Eastern Conference and have a five-game road winning streak.
NBA: CLIPPERS at DALLAS, 5:30 p.m., Prime Ticket:
Mavs owner Mark Cuban told a bunch of reporters recently that he thinks “the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion. I’m just telling you, pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they’re getting hoggy. Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I’m just telling you, when you’ve got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That’s rule number one of business.” Take it for what it’s worth.
NBA: LAKERS at MILWAUKEE, 5 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
There’s a chance the Lakers win this just because the Bucks don’t care any longer.
MLB EXHIBITION: DODGERS vs. ANGELS, Dodger Stadium, 7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A., FSW:
Back to the games that don’t really count, but will give Zack Greinke and Dan Haren some extra work on the mound. They’ll also play Friday at Dodger Stadium (7:10 p.m., SportsNet L.A. ,FSW.) and Saturday at Angel Stadium (6:05 p.m. SportsNet L.A., Channel 13).
COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT — SWEET 16:
MIDWEST REGIONAL SEMIFINAL at INDIANAPOLIS:
=MICHIGAN vs. TENNESSEE, 4:15 p.m., Channel 2
=KENTUCKY vs. LOUISVILLE, approx. 6:45 p.m., Channel 2
EAST REGIONAL SEMIFINAL at NEW YORK
=IOWA STATE vs. CONNECTICUT, 4:27 p.m., TBS
=VIRGINIA vs. MICHIGAN STATE, approx. 7 p.m., TBS:
Defending champion Louisville, and pre-season No. 1 Kentucky, could only hope for this to happen when the tournament brackets were picked a week ago. Now it’s happened. The Cardinals, in the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row, outlasted Manhattan and Saint Louis to get this far. It’s also the second time in Louisville coach Rick Pitino’s career that he’s been to three straight Sweet 16s. The other time? From 1995-’97, when he was coaching Kentucky. This 10-loss, freshman-heavy Wildcats, led by coach John Calipari, nursed their way through a win over No. 1 and undefeated Wichita State thanks to the Harrison twins. Andrew Harrison, who injured his elbow in a late Friday win against Kansas State, hit three key free throws in the final minute to lock up the Kentucky win and led the team with 20 points, while Aaron Harrison had 19. Kentucky and Louisville has not only meet dozens of times before in their rivalry, but one of them was back on Dec. 28, when the Wildcats’ Harrisons combined for 28 points, including 11 during a critical second-half stretch with Julius Randle sidelined, engineered a 73-66 win over the visiting Cardinals before more than 24,000 in Rupp Arena at Lexington, Ky. Louisville star Russ Smith, who had a team-best 19 points, was scoreless in the final 8:43 after making a free throw to tie the game at 53.
NBA: LAKERS at MINNESOTA, 5 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
The T-Wolves continue to sit on the .500 mark, too many games back of Dallas for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. When Minneapolis freezes over, maybe they’ll make the post-season.
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL:
CIF STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS:
Boys Open Division final: Mater Dei vs. Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd:
At Sacramento, 8 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
The undefeated Monarchs (34-0) from Santa Ana, who came from behind to knock out Westchester in the recent So Cal Regionals, are the star attraction for this weekend, but there is plenty of local interest for Southern California boys regional champions such as Bellflower St. John Bosco (facing Folsolm at 4 p.m. Saturday in the D-II final), West Hills Chaminade (meeting Sir Francis Drake at 4 p.m. Friday in the D-III final), Torrance Bishop Montgomery (taking on Moreau Catholic at noon Saturday in the D-IV final) and La Canada Renaissance Academy (pit against St. Joseph Notre Dame at noon Friday in the D-V final). On the girls side, Long Beach Poly (26-3) seeks a sixth state title when it faces Richmond Salesian in the Open Division (Saturday at 6 p.m., TWC SportsNet). Other Southern California girls champs seeking state trophies include West Hills Chaminade (taking on Archbishop Mitty at 2 p.m. Saturday in the D-II final) and Chatsworth Sierra Canyon (versus Justin-Sienna at 10 a.m. Saturday in the D-IV final).
NBA: CLIPPERS at HOUSTON, 5 p.m., Prime Ticket:
The Clippers have had a relatively easy go of it against the Rockets in two previous meetings. The last was a 101-93 decision at Staples Center when Blake Griffin had 23 points and 16 rebounds.
NHL: KINGS vs. WINNIPEG, Staples Center, 7 p.m., FSW:
The Kings’ 3-1 win in Winnipeg on March 6 should still be relatively fresh.
HORSE RACING: DUBAI WORLD CUP
In Dubai, United Arab Emirates:
The field of 16 expected to show up for the $10 million World Cup has no reps from North America for the first time in its 19 runnings. The biggest names: 7-year-old Ron the Greek, 4-year-old Ruler of the World and 5-year-old The Fugue.
MLB: DODGERS at SAN DIEGO, 5 p.m., ESPN:
The Dodgers, who have only 160 more wins to go to complete a perfect regular season, will find no jet lag involved in taking that Greyhound from L.A. to S.D. for the reboot of the 2014 campaign with another created Opening Day, this time by ESPN. Just swallow hard and avoid that Capistrano detour. Now that the Dodgers’ trip to Australia is all behind them – or still in front of some of them, considering the time change – we go south again to see if there’s a chance Clayton Kershaw can become the first starting pitcher in recent MLB history to begin a season with a 2-0 record just three games in. By all reports, San Diego will go with right-hander Andrew Cashner as their starter – someone who started 2013 as a long reliever in the bullpen, then went 10-9 with a 3.09 ERA, including a 0-1 mark and 1.35 ERA against the Dodgers in six appearances. The Dodgers may have finished 16 games ahead of the Padres in the NL West a year ago, but they nearly had the same home record – the Dodgers’ 47-34 mark at Dodger Stadium was only slightly better than the Padres’ 45-36 at Petco Park. There is a melancholy moment here – it’s the Padres first game since the passing of Hall of Fame broadcaster Jerry Coleman, the voice of the team since 1972 except for the one year (1980) that he acted as their manager.
GOLF: LPGA KIA CLASSIC
Park Hyatt Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad, final round, 4 p.m., Golf Channel:
A couple reasons why this one is key on the top tour players’ schedule. It’s the last stop before the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage next week. And it’s also the home of TaylorMade, Callaway and Titeist, among dozens of other golf companies in the city’s limits. Spain’s Beatriz Recari (right) held off I.K. Kim in a two-hole playoff for her second-career LPGA victory in this event at the Arnold Palmer-designed course year ago. The sixth event on the 2014 schedule is only the second on U.S. mainland. What else could put this event on the national map? Maybe coaxing Paula Creamer to make a 75-foot eagle putt at some point. The 27-year-old was in nearby Camp Pendleton earlier this month to visit with the Marines for a morale booster, where she also got to shoot off a Howitzer during a field operation. Pull one of those out of your bag on the par 5 17th hole and see what kind of reaction you get.
Golf Channel has the first two rounds Thursday and Friday (3:30 p.m.) and the third round Saturday (4 p.m.)
GOLF: PGA VALERO TEXAS OPEN
In San Antonio, final round, noon, Channel 4:
Martin Laird shot a course record 9-under-63 in the final round last year, enough to hold off Rory McIlroy for a two-shot win at the TPC San Antonio course. Phil Mickelson is in this year’s field for the first time in 22 years with the Masters lurking on the schedule and none of his kids beckoning him home for spring break.
Golf Channel has the first two rounds Thursday and Friday (noon) and NBC has the third round (noon).
NBA: LAKERS vs. PHOENIX, Staples Center, 6:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
The Suns won five of their past six heading into this week and have Atlanta, Washington and New York before this.