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.

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How the Forum wrestles with its sporting future, while Russia takes Ukraine to the mat

A mural painted outside the refurbished Forum in Inglewood harkens back to its sports-related glory days.

A mural painted outside the refurbished Forum in Inglewood harkens back to its sports-related glory days.

Jordan Burroughs played the Forum on Saturday.

“I’ve seen a lot of pictures in the entry ways of all the people who’ve been here,” said the marquee man of the U.S. wrestling team, stripped down to expose his ridiculous upper-body structure while standing in the hallway out of the bright spotlight.

“It seems like it’s a breeding ground for celebrities. They’ve let us hang out in one of the artists’ dressing rooms, that’s where they put us, so to be in the same place as the Eagles, Prince, Eric Clapton . . . .we’re feeling like celebrities this week in such a prestigious venue. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Yup, the Forum still has some fabulousness left in it.

2014_01_FORUM-220Spiffed up and reopened as a music venue a couple of months ago after years of somewhat neglect after the Lakers and Kings moved out in the summer of 1999 to go to the downtown Staples Center, this place in Inglewood hadn’t been revived for any kind of sporting-type event until this weekend’s FILA Freestyle Wrestling World Cup.

A 10-nation dual-meet tournament continues to try to emphasize a rebirth of an Olympic sport that, for some time last year, was on the verge of getting pinned to the mat for archaic methods of operation.

It has the added intrigue of the U.S. team paired up in pool play against Iran – which didn’t happen a year ago when the country left early before a similar multi-country event at the L.A. Sports Arena – and Russia’s powerhouse taking on a group from the Ukraine at a time when the two nations are discussing the pros and cons of redrawing their boundaries amidst public protests and United Nations interventions. There’s also a vote Sunday in Crimea over whether to break away from the Ukraine and join Russia.

Politics aside, this also sets the stage as kind of a test run for other sports-related activity that could find its way into this iconic building again. Bob Arum, for example, has been talking about bringing championship boxing back – he’s friends with new Forum part-owner Irving Azoff.

Step back inside the rusty-red place Jack Kent Cooke originally built for his NHL expansion team in the late 1960s – between the spacious Inglewood Cemetery and now-abandoned Hollywood Park Race Track on Prairie and Manchester, a building that Jack Nicholson used to call “the giant ashtray” – and the senses are fooled a bit. Continue reading “How the Forum wrestles with its sporting future, while Russia takes Ukraine to the mat” »

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As the U.S. sled hockey team takes on Russia for Paralympic gold, a SoCal Kings contingent pushes forward with interest

LA Kings Sled Hockey team manager Todd Jenkins, right, makes adjustments to Larney Johnson's sled during practice at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

LA Kings Sled Hockey team manager Todd Jenkins, right, makes adjustments to Larney Johnson’s sled during practice at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

The U.S. team faces Russia again in the gold-medal game Saturday for the Paralympic sled hockey title (Channel 4, 9 a.m. live from Sochi). A local sled hockey team is rooting them on.

Christie Jenkins, left, helps xxxxx bring her son, xxxx, onto the ice for sled hockey practice. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

Christie Jenkins, left, helps Maria Estabrooks lift her son, Ethan,  onto the ice for sled hockey practice. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

The L.A. Kings Sled Hockey program, started five years ago by Todd and Christie Jenkins as something their son, Nick, could participate in, has been steadily getting more and more participation as those with disabilities consider whether the sport is something they want to try.

Here are the links to our story and photo gallery on the inspiring group.

In the meantime:
== Info on the Kings Sled Hockey team can be found at SoCalSledHockey.blogspot.com, on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SoCalSledHockey and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LAKingsSledHockey
==  A recent Fox Sports West piece on the team can be viewed here.
== The hour-long PBS documentary “Ice Warriors” can be viewed at the PBS website.
== The Kings Icetown Riverside facility is at 10540 Magnolia Ave., in Riverside off the 91 Freeway.

Sled hockey players Wes Barrientos, of Bakersfield, left, Joshua Swope, of Lakewood, and Nicholas Jenkins, of San Bernardino, share a laugh as they get ready to play at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside. (Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

Sled hockey players Wes Barrientos, of Bakersfield, left, Joshua Swope, of Lakewood, and Nicholas Jenkins, of San Bernardino, share a laugh as they get ready to play at LA Kings Icetown in Riverside.
(Photo by Jennifer Cappuccio Maher/Inland Valley Daily Bulletin)

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Weekly media column version 03.14.15 — A Pac-12 Network standoff with DirecTV does no one good this time of the year

Updated notes 10:15 a.m. Friday:

What made it into this week’s media column:

222176The Pac-12 Network has held onto  eight of the dozen games from its men’s basketball tournament in Las Vegas — with Fox Sports 1 taking one quarterfinal, one semifinal and the title game. Is that any way to expose the conference to the rest of the country, especially since DirecTV isn’t on board with carrying the channel?
We’ve also got notes on how TNT’s Reggie Miller views UCLA’s post-season journey, Chris Fowler talking about his new ESPN contract that will put him on the ABC Saturday night prime-time college football game of the week, and more backlash to the Dodgers-SportsNet L.A. launch.

What didn’t but maybe should have:

Updated notes:

== While NBCSN has the closing ceremonies for the Paralympics from Sochi, Russia at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, the U.S.-Russia gold-medal sled hockey game is the most anticipated event. NBC announced today that KNBC-Channel 4 will air the contest live at 9 a.m. Saturday (not 3 p.m. delayed as originally scheduled). Also look for a story about the L.A. Kings Sled Hockey team coming in Saturday’s editions.

== In addition to our conversation with Chris Fowler on Thursday about ESPN’s decision to extend his contract and allow him to do both the “College GameDay” Saturday morning show in addition to play-by-play on the Saturday ABC prime-time package, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch is quoting ESPN VP of programming and production John Wildhack as saying he became convinced having Fowler double on Saturdays could work after multiple conversations with Fowler and the game broadcast producer Bill Bonnell.
A reminder: Fowler, Darren Cahill, Mary Joe Fernandez and Pam Shriver are at Indian Wells for the BNP Paribas Open final weekend, concluding with the women’s and men’s final Sunday at noon on ESPN2. A men’s quarterfinal (1:30 p.m.) and women’s semifinal match (8:30 p.m.) are covered Friday on ESPN2, with a men’s semifinal (noon) covered Saturday on ESPNEWS.

== SportsOnEarth.com has Leigh Montville on the move to move Brent Musburger off the prime-time package and Will Leitch on the Fox “safe move” decision to add Harold Reynolds and Tom Verducci to the MLB A-team in place of Tim McCarver.

== The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir focuses on ESPN’s Stuart Scott and his battle with cancer.

More notes:

Continue reading “Weekly media column version 03.14.15 — A Pac-12 Network standoff with DirecTV does no one good this time of the year” »

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Play It Forward: March 10-16 on your sports calendar — After all the hoopla in Vegas, does UCLA get dressed down heading to the formal dance?

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET

bracketologyCOLLEGE BASKETBALL:
PAC-12 MEN’S TOURNAMENT
MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Wednesday-Saturday, Pac-12 Network and FS1

NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT BRACKET:
Sunday at 3 p.m., Channel 2:

99129_1_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.
99185_1_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.
MjAxMy0wMjc1ZmI1ZjYxOGQ3OTM1UCLA (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.

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