THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
NO. 1: COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MEN’S NCAA TOURNAMENT SWEET 16:
SOUTH REGION SEMIFINALS:
UCLA vs. GONZAGA
Details/TV: At NRG Stadium in Houston, Friday at 4:15 p.m., Channel 2
WEST REGION SEMIFINALS:
WISCONSIN vs. NORTH CAROLINA
Details/TV: At Staples Center, Thursday at 4:45 p.m., TBS
ARIZONA vs. XAVIER
Details/TV: At Staples Center, Thursday at approx. 7:20 p.m., TBS
In short, we’re baffled by what’s going on with this latest fashion statement forced onto the UCLA basketball program. Again, the marketing Mensas at Adidas who want to establish a fresh, cutting-edge, sellable image for today’s game are hip-deep in the middle of this issue. As for the tops going with script, linking letters across the chest – a lot like the football team’s helmets – instead of the classic block letters … OK, fine. But after that, are the players wearing a weight belt, a fanny pack or a cumber bun around the middle? This is gut-check time. We’re all for making Tony Parker look more imposing in the paint, but this just doesn’t pass the eye test as well as the Bruins apparently did with the NCAA selection committee, which must be feeling a bit full of themselves these days for simply allowing the school to be in the field. So what if other Adidas clients are made to conform as well to this so-called “Made in March” collection – Wisconsin, Louisville and Kansas, for example. Granted, it’s a huge improvement over the camouflage, Zumba-wear stuff that was forced upon a few teams, including UCLA, back in 2013.
But what would have been so wrong if UCLA was allowed to break out the 1965-style unis that they actually wore for game against Colorado this season? Go back and look at the yellow “BRUINS” tops with the blue trim on the white jersey, and the shorts with yellow and blue piping. It would be a sweet addition for a Sweet 16 team that’s in a strange position to raise the bar as it is making its 46th tournament appearance. Now comes a rematch with a Gonzaga team that, a week before the Bruins’ embarrassment against Kentucky, dinged them for an 87-74 loss at Pauley Pavilion in mid-December, igniting a season-worst five-game losing streak. Kyle Witjer scored 24 points and USC-transfer Byron Wesley had 20 for the Zags, who improved to 9-1. Bryce Alford had 23 for the Bruins, who couldn’t even get a shot off in the last 2:09 of the first half when they had a then-season-low 27 points at intermission and trailed by 11. The Tony Parker factor: He was the only UCLA starter not in double figures – five points, nine rebounds and four fouls. Let’s see how much of a short-term memory the fans have about that one, while trying to figure out which shorts the Bruins will come out with for this appearance. A win here against Gonzaga would put them in the Sunday regional final against either Duke or Pac-12 rival Utah (who face each other Friday at approx. 6:45 p.m., Channel 2).
Meanwhile, the West Regional continues to give Southern California a connection with the event. If Arizona and Wisconsin survive and conquer, they’ll meet in this regional final for the second year in a row, this one scheduled for Saturday. The Badgers pulled out a 64-63 overtime win against the Wildcats at the Honda Center in Anaheim in 2014.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
Do these Kings really get the point at this point in the season? With 11 regular-season games left, the defending Stanley Cup champs need at least to come away with a point a game the rest of the way to avoid the mess of missing the playoffs. This stretch of five of them in a row on the road starts with back-to-backs in New Jersey (Monday, 4 p.m., FSW) and the N.Y. Rangers (Tuesday, 4 p.m., NBCSN) … The Clippers have three on the road, starting in New York (Wednesday, 4 p.m., Prime Ticket), and the Lakers have a road path that begins in Oklahoma City (Tuesday, 5 p.m., TNT) … The rest of the week will be at this link.