Play It Forward Dec. 14-20: UCLA’s next hoop test involves a) North Carolina and b) Brooklyn

UCLA's Bryce Alford walks on the court during the second half of Saturday's win at Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

UCLA’s Bryce Alford walks on the court during the second half of Saturday’s win at Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
Ranking top 10 sports events Dec. 14-20 you won’t want to miss:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
UCLA vs. NORTH CAROLINA
Details/TV: At Brooklyn, Saturday at 10 a.m., Channel 2:
It may be tough to justify a three-loss team this early in the Top 25 polls, but when the next round of voting takes place, these 7-3 Bruins have built a convincing resume with a qualified list of recommendations based on recent triumphs over then-No. 1 Kentucky and at No. 20 Gonzaga in the last two weeks. Sure, there is that 19-point loss less than a month ago to current No. 2 Kansas in Hawaii … but stay in the moment here. And here’s another national TV eye test, back on a neutral court in Brooklyn, against the current No. 3 Tar Heels (7-2) in something called the CBS Sports Classic (which also involves a Kentucky-Ohio State matchup at 12:30 p.m.). So maybe it’s all part of the game hype that a CBSSports.com site has, as of Sunday, deemed UCLA worthy of that No. 25 spot. If you go by the NCAA’s latest RPI rankings, however, UCLA is just at No. 57, with eight other Pac-12 teams ahead of it. Roy Williams’ Tar Heels are No. 1 in RPI with three neutral site victories. Both North Carolina losses have been on the road, including a buzzer-beater two-point loss at Texas last Saturday. Senior guard Marcus Paige, who missed the first six Tar Heels games this season with a broken right hand, has been back leading a group averaging more than six 3-pointers a game, the best the program has had since 2012-13.
Also this week: UCLA vs. Louisiana-Lafayette, Pauley Pavilion, Tuesday at 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network.

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL CALIFORNIA STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS:
OPEN DIVISION: CENTENNIAL (CORONA) vs. DE LA SALLE (CONCORD)
Details/TV: At Sacramento State, Saturday at 8 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
PrintThe state finals move out of Southern California (and the StubHub Center) for the first time after eight years, but it all looks fairly familiar. In last year’s Open Division final, De La Salle outlasted Centennial, 63-42. This is the fifth state division title meeting between the two in nine years of the state tournament, with Centennial (14-0) coming off an impressive win over St. John Bosco in the CIF-Southern Section Pac-5 title game to go to the No. 1 spot in the nation on the MaxPreps.com Xcellent25 rankings. De La Salle (12-1), ranked eighth in that national poll, has won 24 straight North Coast Section titles (and 32 overall).
Other title games at Sacramento State:
Open/Small School: San Marino vs. Central Catholic, Saturday, 4 p.m., TWC Community
I-A: Narbonne vs. Clayton Valley Charter, Saturday, noon, TWC Community
II-AA: 4 p.m.: Camarillo vs. Del Oro, Friday, 4 p.m., TWC SportsNet
I-AA: 8 p.m.: Mission Viejo vs. Bellarmine College Prep, Friday, 8 p.m., TWC SportsNet
Other title games:
III-AA: Campolindo at La Mirada, Saturday at 6 p.m.

THE REST OF THE WEEK:
Long Beach State’s basketball team begins a tough road trip at Oregon (Friday, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network) …. The Kings’ road trip continues in Canada with Ottawa (Monday), Montreal (Thursday) and Toronto (Saturday) … The Clippers’ Friday game at San Antonio (5 p.m.) has ESPN all over it … Abby Wambach ends her U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team career with a friendly against China in New Orleans (Wednesday, 6 p.m., FS1) .. More at this link.

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More sports bookish suggestions for the 2015 holiday shopper

booklistWe’ve got a top five (plus, Jalen Rose’s book) in Sunday’s media column that could be the answer to a holiday shopping need. But definitely consider these as well:

FOR THE MIND

== “Just Add Water: A Surfing Savant’s Journey with Asperger’s” by Clay Marzo with Robert Yehling
51n5fbjznuLOcean water became the holistic “happy place” for Marzo, a 26-year-old born in San Diego and living in Lahaina, Hawaii. He wasn’t diagnosed with this form of autism until he was 18, and then things started making sense about all the mental prep work he puts in via the Internet, marine charts, Surfline.com and buoy readings. “Remembering to put on shoes before flying overseas – and he struggles,” Yehling writes. “(But if) the ocean is involved, Clay masters his environment.” Adds Mitch Vernes, his agent: “He pours his brain into the ocean. Clay’s as smart as or smarter than any surfer when it comes to breaks, how waves work, and how the conditions will be on any given day.” Maroz, a pro surfer who doesn’t like surfing competition, or the loud crowds, was featured in a Sundance Film Festival-winning documentary on him came out in 2009, but this written form goes more in depth.

FOR THE SPIRIT

== “My Fight/Your Fight” by Ronda Rousey
While this came out in May, long before her first career UFC loss in Australia last month, it provides a blueprint for how the Venice-based fighter will likely fight her way back into the sport. It is co-written with her sister, Maria Burns Ortiz. FYI: 88 percent of the 855 reviews posted on Amazon.com give this five stars.

FOR THE FICTION

== “Entitled: America’s Biggest Star is Hiding Football’s Ugliest Secret,” an e-novel by Steve Bisheff:
41xW1Rqx7JL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The long-time columnist for the Orange County Register, L.A. Herald-Examiner and San Diego Evening Tribune tackles the domestic violence epidemic in the NFL by creating L.A. Tribune sports columnist Mike Daggett, who gets a tip that quarterback J.D. “Downtowne” Towne, the “most gifted and complex athlete he’s ever covered,” has been a serial abuser. Daggett digs deeper into Towne’s Texas past to piece together the evidence, so if you must, read between the dialogue-driven lines here that sound all-too-familiar.

FOR THE HISTORY

== “The Three-Year Swim Club” by Julie Checkoway:
610RaGU033LWhen included in the discussion with David Davis’ “Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku” and Simon Winchester’s “Pacific: Silicon Chips and Surfboards, Coral Reefs and Atom Bombs, Brutal Dictators, Fading Empires and the coming Collision of the World’s Superpowers,” Checkoway checks off all the right boxes in revealing this story of how some poverty-stricken Japanese-American kids of sugar cane workers in Maui were taught by Soichi Sakamoto to become Olympic swimmers between the late 1930s and late 1940s. Despite the fact they were malnourished and, without a pool, trained in an irrigation ditch.

== “This Old Man: All in Pieces” by Roger Angell:
It’s more than just a collection of essays over the last 20-plus years, some of which touch on Derek Jeter and the 2014 World Series focused on Madison Bumgarner. It’s the latest reminder that the Baseball Hall of Fame-honored writer who just turned 95 still has wings.

== “Hockey’s Greatest” by the editors of Sports Illustrated:
These oversized “great” compilation by SI have already revealed themselves for football (2012), baseball (2013) and basketball (2014). So, it’s about time. Also new and noteworthy: “The Hockey News: Hockey’s Greatest Photos: The Bruce Bennett Collection)”

FOR GOLFERS WHO REFUSE TO QUIT

== “The A Swing: The Alternative Approach to Great Golf” by David Ledbetter
81voy2u-iFLThe swing guru brings his highly endorsed biomechanical A-game – “A” stands for “alternative” — into an illustrated-driven lesson that, if anything, gives one a seven-minute warmup routine that helps for those times you’re scrambling to a tee time and have little time to prepare physically. Some write little red books, others write “bibles” on how to do this.

FOR POLI-SCI MAJORS

== “The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama” by Alexander Wolff:
This is how basketball helped shape the 43rd president’s identity – beyond his annual filling out the NCAA bracket each year for the ESPN cameras. It also seems to imply he’ll rebound quite nicely back into public life soon.

FOR THE BUSINESS MIND

== “Billion-Dollar Ball” A Journey Through Big-Money Culture of College Football” by Gilbert M. Gaul:
51Xw63GYyQL
When a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner decides to uncover the $2.5 billion-a-year entertainment business known as college football, it’s time to pay attention. The question that drove him: “Why were some of America’s largest and most prestigious universities spending tens times more on football players than on their smartest, most ambitious students? I wasn’t entirely naïve.” Gaul not only looks under the rocks in particular at Oregon, Alabama, Michigan and Texas in his expedition, but he also tries to make sense of stories like why the University of Tennessee hired Lane Kiffin, and how much USC paid to not just get him back, but then fire him with $10 million owed on his contract. “In the strange case of Lane Kiffin,” Gaul concludes, “the University of Southern California apparently got hit coming and going.”

== “Above The Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life From a Championship Season” by Urban Meyer with Wayne Coffey:
A line is drawn after the top four teams in the final College Football Playoff poll. Meyer’s Ohio State team snuck in above it in 2014 – and won a title. They were just a notch below it in 2015, but if anything, Meyer showed how he walks a fine line in how he deftly handled the criticism of running back Ezekiel Elliott following the Buckeyes’ 17-14 loss to Michigan State back in November, ending Ohio State’s 23-game win streak.

FOR THE KIDS

== “Legends: The Best Players, Games and Teams in Baseball” by Howard Bryant:
81i+82+E0KLBryant, the thoughtful columnist at ESPN, tells kids in the introduction that this is “just a road map to get you started” on deciding what players, games and teams are the best of all time. The way he nudges readers along is pointing out why Jackie Robinson’s 1949 NL MVP season may be just as noteworthy as two years earlier when he broke the baseball color barrier. Why? Because Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey told Robinson he was “free to be himself … if someone argued with him, he didn’t have to just walk away. He could argue back. ‘Not being able to fight back,’ Robinson said, ‘is a form of severe punishment’.” Bryant’s top 10 of others for kids to go find more information about include Roberto Clemente, Marvin Miller, Curt Flood, Han Greenberg, Larry Doby and Jim Abbott.

FOR THOSE WHO WANT FRESHLY MINTED SIGNED BOOKS

== Rob Goldman (“Nolan Ryan: The Making of a Pitcher”) and John Klima (“The Game Must Go On: Hank Greenberg, Pete Gray and the Great Days of Baseball in WWII”) are signing their books at The Open Book store in the Thousand Oaks Mall (512 W. Hillcrest Dr., Thousand Oaks, second level) on Wednesday from 4-to-6 p.m.

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It’s Out of the Question: What kind of Sarkopathic advice is former USC coach getting with his new suit?

Illustration by Jim Thompson/www.sportsbronze.com

Illustration by Jim Thompson/www.sportsbronze.com

The Gospel according to Sark …
This one-time USC head football coach believes his career has been permanently derailed because of his inability to hold down a very stress job in a highly competitive field.
And now he’s brought together some chasers of ambulances who have convinced him they can monetize his pain.
From sympathetic, to now just pathetic, Steve Sarkisian has chosen his new narrative.
So which of the 12 missteps in his rehabilitation program suggests filing a $30 million lawsuit with the sole intent of deflecting personal accountability?
We question that, as well as the state of California’s resources to track down Kobe Bryant, who comes out the biggest loser in the next Fan Duel/Draft Kings “world championships” that have been moved from Las Vegas to San Diego/L.A., and what relief would the Dodgers have gotten if they made the Aroldis Chapman trade before Yahoo!Sports broke the news to them that he was being investigated?
More at this link …

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Weekly media notes 12.10.15: On book ends, beginnings and Rose-colored reconnections

What’s coming up for Sunday’s weekly column:

51wFCbIpPaLGot a need to read?
We’ve sifted through some holiday book suggestions that vary in range from those who may be Dodgers doubters to NFL skeptics to many who seek out more inspirational material.
We’ll even throw in an adult coloring book that will blow your shoelaces off.
We wouldn’t recommend them if we hadn’t poured over them ourselves.
ESPN’s Jalen Rose, whose new book, “Got To Give The People What They Want: True Stories and Flagrant Opinions From Center Court” is our entry point for whether books this time of year is really what people want.
“While the bookmarket is declining and you don’t see notable book houses that people go to to purchase books as they did growing up, I think we underestimate people that still read,” says Rose, a Brentwood resident who is often at ESPN’s LA Live studios doing “NBA Countdown.”

What’s worth delivering now:

rome== Last April, we finally got the chance to duck into the Westlake Village studios of Jim Rome’s Showtime cable-friendly sports/variety show, one of our must-DVR series since it started in 2012.
At that point, Rome was in the middle of a six-week run, rather than the once-a-month routine, in some respect so the network could get some “sports” boost of its involvement of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Manny Pacquaio pay-per-view.
Unfortunately, there may be no going back. Continue reading “Weekly media notes 12.10.15: On book ends, beginnings and Rose-colored reconnections” »

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Play It Forward Dec. 7-13: What kind of gift will Dwight Howard have for Kobe Bryant in Houston?

screen shot 2014-10-29 at 8.48.01 am.pngTHIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
NBA: LAKERS at HOUSTON
Details/TV: Saturday at 5 p.m., TWC SportsNet:
The Kobe Bryant “Now It’s Official I’m Toast Air Ball Bonanza Farewell Tour” will eventually circle back to places like Houston, Minnesota and San Antonio, which are scheduled this week as the Lakers finish off an eight-game roadie. But there’s this game against the Rockets could bring some zenithal sparks, as one-time Laker Dwight Howard will likely have to make that awkward bro-shake before the game. When Bryant announced recently that this would be his last season, a reporter asked Howard what he’d learned from Bryant during their year together as teammates. “Did I learn something from him?” Howard said, followed by a laugh and an uncomfortable pause. “Oh, man … we’re going to go to the next question now.”
The other stops this week: At Toronto (Monday, 4:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet), at Minnesota (Wednesday, 5 p.m., TWC SportsNet) and at San Antonio (Friday, 6:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet and ESPN).

ALSO THIS WEEK:
The MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn., start Monday, end Thursday, and always promise to have some news concerning the Dodgers. The MLB Network plans at least 10 hours of live coverage a day starting at 6 a.m…. UCLA’s basketball team tries to continue its momentum with a trip to Spokane, Wash., to face Gonzaga (Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN2) … The Clippers’ road trip starts in Minnesota (Monday, 5 p.m., Prime Ticket) and has a nationally televised stop in Chicago (Thursday, 5 p.m., TNT) … The Kings’ road trip starts in Columbus (Tuesday, 4 p.m., FSW) and includes a prime stop in Pittsburgh (Friday, 4 p.m., FSW) … The 116th Army-Navy game is in Philadelphia on Saturday at noon, Channel 2, hours before the Heisman Trophy Award is given out (5 p.m., ESPN) … More at a link here...

 

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