Play It Forward March 23-29: A uniform opinion about the style points UCLA thinks it is making in the NCAA tournament

UCLA's Tony Parker, left, and Kevon Looney go after a shot by SMU's SMU's Ben Moore in last Thursday's NCAA Tournament second round game in Louisville, Ky. UCLA won 60-59. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

UCLA’s Tony Parker, left, and Kevon Looney go after a shot by SMU’s SMU’s Ben Moore in last Thursday’s NCAA Tournament second round game in Louisville, Ky. UCLA won 60-59. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

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

Alabama-Birmingham forward Tosin Mehinti shoots over UCLA forward Tony Parker in Saturday's NCAA Tournament third round game. UCLA won.  (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

Alabama-Birmingham forward Tosin Mehinti shoots over UCLA forward Tony Parker in Saturday’s NCAA Tournament third round game. UCLA won. (AP Photo/David Stephenson)

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.

UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton shoots as Colorado forward Wesley Gordon, left, defends in a game at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 31.  (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

UCLA guard Isaac Hamilton shoots as Colorado forward Wesley Gordon, left, defends in a game at Pauley Pavilion on Jan. 31. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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:

The Kings ice crew understands their responsibilities between time outs during the team's game at Staples Center last Saturday against Vancouver.  The Canucks won 4-1. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

The Kings ice crew understands their responsibilities between time outs during the team’s game at Staples Center last Saturday against Vancouver. The Canucks won 4-1. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

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.

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Media column version 03.22.15: Hey Verne — The quest for a Lundquist Q-and-A that covers UCLA’s resume, the KY dominance, and a Bowling for Dollars payoff

In 2010, President Barack Obama joined CBS' Clark Kellogg and Verne Lundquist during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke at  the Verizon Center in Washington DC.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

In 2010, President Barack Obama joined CBS’ Clark Kellogg and Verne Lundquist during a college basketball game between Georgetown and Duke at the Verizon Center in Washington DC. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Verne Lundquist, the minimalist maestro of play-by-play, could have run out of words by the time Thursday night staggered into Friday morning.

He had finished captioning back-to-back-to-back-to-back second-round games of the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament from Louisville, Ky., during a 12-plus hour stretch as part of the CBS/Turner TV coverage, and he wouldn’t get to bed until 3 a.m.

“Our producer, Craig Silver, just told us at that point: Sleep until you wake up (on Friday),” said Lundquist.

But the soon-to-be 75 year-old broadcaster with 50-plus years experience in TV has learned about self-preservation. It’s just that a case of chronic bronchitis left him sounding worse for wear just before he circled back Saturday morning to call the UCLA-UAB and Kentucky-Cincinnati third-round games.

In between, he submitted himself to a Q-and-A that was completely unnecessary in his prep work for the rest of this tournament, which might necessitate a trip to L.A. to cover the West Regional semifinals and finals at Staples Center this coming week:

Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkal are teammed up for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, calling UCLA's first two contests.

Verne Lundquist and Jim Spanarkal are teammed up for the 2015 NCAA Tournament, calling UCLA’s first two contests.

Q: Does the recovery process from four games in one day ever get any easier?

A: I can certify that it does not. The first time I had to do this kind of thing with a crew was 1999. At the end of the day, that last half of the fourth game you pray that it’s competitive because then that gets you energized.

Q: You may not have any buckets to empty at that point?

A: The buckets are gone. And they’re not even a quarter full.

Q: How do you wind down from such a long process?

A: We didn’t really limp out of the arena until 1 o’clock (Friday morning) because after the last game is over, we have to do a dot-com report, a summation of all four games. And at that point, you almost can’t remember who played in the first game.

Q: That’s today’s media, always bleeding you to do something more for another platform.

A: That’s it. And we’re servicing them all. So then our production supervisor arranged a meeting room for the crew to gather, and we had a little pizza, some beer and wine, just to come down from the day. Again, it’s not just me, Jim Spanarkel and Allie LaForce, but the guys in the truck have been as every bit busy. Think of the camera guys. There’s one – the midcourt mini-camera position– who sits in a chair to the stage manager’s right and shoots all four games carrying that heavy equipment. For all 70 of us, or how many there are, once you’re finished, that’s decompression time. Continue reading

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Media column notes version 03.20.15 — If Verne Lundquist can find truTV on his cable system, then we’re all in

IMG_3139Coming up Sunday:

We have a Q-and-A planned with longtime CBS play-by-play man Verne Lundquist, who called Thursday’s UCLA win over SMU in the first round of the NCAA basketball tournament and will do the Bruins’ third-round game against Alabama-Birmingham at 9:10 a.m. on Saturday from Louisville, Ky., with Jim Spanarkel.
This time, it’s too good to be truTV — it has made it to the KCBS-Channel 2 menu, with the Kentucky-Cincinnati game right afterward.
And no, if both UCLA and Kentucky win, they don’t play each other next. They may be on the same court this weekend, but they’re in different regions.
We’ve allowed Verne to rest up after doing those four games on Thursday and not getting back to his hotel until 3 a.m.

What else we have worthy of notes at this juncture in the week:

== CBS’ Doug Gottlieb, who referred to UCLA’s inclusion in the NCAA Tournament as a “joke” on Selection Sunday, followed up on it with new facts available — the Bruins’ 70-69 win over SMU — when asked about it Friday morning on the Dan Patrick syndicated radio/TV show: “I didn’t think UCLA belonged in the field because they didn’t beat enough good teams. But I also picked them to beat SMU. Now I don’t feel like some sort of champion because they got a lucky call on an airball. But the idea that the team doesn’t belong in, and they win, and that proves me wrong …”
I’m not following the logic there.

== KCBS Channel 2′s Jim Hill will add Cal State Northridge coach Reggie Theus as a tournament analyst on “Sports Central” starting Friday at 9 p.m. and he will remain through the title game on April 6.

== CBS and Turner has added Pitt coach Jamie Dixon, the Notre Dame High of Sherman Oaks grad, as a guest studio analysts starting Saturday from the studios in Atlanta, joining Matt Winer, Mateen Cleaves and Seth Davis. Pitt, which finished tied for ninth in the ACC at 19-15 overall and failed to make the field of 68, lost its first-round NIT game to George Washington earlier this week.

 

thumbNew.php== Last we checked, the Dodgers’ regular-season availability on flagship radio station KLAC-AM (570) was pretty close to 100 percent saturation in Southern California — unless you were driving through a tunnel on the 110 Freeway through Pasadena and Charley Steiner’s pitch for Daniel’s Jewelers suddenly disappeared.
But with the second part of an announcement this week, one that started last September with the team not only renewing a radio rights deal with 570 but also saying it was investing in an ownership stake of the station, the rebranded “AM 570 LA Sports” with a spiffy new logo and the elimination of “Fox Sports Radio” references this week seemed to leave out a piece of news we thought would be included.
727_1426521031That is, if the Dodgers are in now as partners, why wouldn’t there be daily live coverage of every spring training exhibition game from Arizona as an essential part of that deal?
Consider that the Angels carry every one of their exhibition games on their own KLAA-AM (830), interrupting whatever ESPN Radio syndicated coverage that would be blasted out in the midweek afternoons. The Dodgers’ TV carriage deal with SportsNet L.A. continues to stall and, with the latest FCC delay on the Time Warner Cable-Comcast and DirecTV-AT&T mergers likely pushing live local Dodger TV games citywide to perhaps past the All-Star break, the news isn’t getting any sweeter.
This would seem to be a natural entry point to create more buzz going into the season — aside from the revival of the nightly 7 p.m. DodgerTalk show hosted by Kevin Kennedy and David Vassegh.
Instead, the media blackout seems to be even more curiouser and curiouser, no matter how an in-studio appearance at the station this week by Vin Scully tried to frame it.
Senior VP/Station manager Don Martin points out that 570 will be carrying 18 Dodgers exhibition games this year — the most it has ever done. That includes all games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Except that arrangement got some tweaking this week when the Friday window was replaced by Thursday’s Dodgers-Angels game, which awkwardly pushed UCLA’s NCAA Tournament basketball opening game against SMU from its usual 570 home to AM-1150.
billbNew.phpThe Dodgers’ radio schedule is on the station’s home page (www.am570lasports.com) and billboards have already gone up around town promoting the change.
It’s interesting when we recall the days when the Dodgers were on KABC-AM (790) and every spring, station management would cringe at the fact that the obligation to cover every exhibition game (in those days, from Vero Beach, Fla., which meant a 10 a.m. start) took away listeners who wanted to hear the popular Michael Jackson show.
But with today’s technology, if a listener who didn’t want to hear the Dodgers’ exhibition from Arizona at 1 p.m. wanted to keep tuned to the shows by Jay Mohr or Petros and Money, the live audiostreaming either online or via a phone app is always an option.
“We have a commitment to our audience to cover all LA Sports, and I believe that this gives a us a wonderful balance,” Martin said of continuing the regular mid-week lineup.
Dodgers executive VP and chief marketing officer Lon Rosen said the team’s financial investment in the station is “very significant. We have had a number of suitors to work with going forward but we feel most comfortable with KLAC. It’s a perfect association. There is more Dodger Talk now, but really the station doesn’t change except for the logo. It’s a rebranding.”
And also allowing the iHeartMedia L.A. company to better promote the Dodgers on its seven other stations — Real 92.3, KOST-FM (103.5), KIIS-FM (102.7), MYfm (104.3), KFI-AM (640) and KEIB-AM (1150).
But then again, it’s apparently been too many years to count since anyone paid attention to KLAC (570 AM) anyway, according to Jebidiah Atkinson ….

== Via the New York Daily News, from the Sports Business Daily: Will MLB fans finally get video streaming access to local games? It might sound like a way around the SportsNet LA hitch, but it usually means you have authenticate that you have a TV provider that has the channel you’re seeking.

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Play It Forward March 16-22 on your sports calendar — A priest, a rabbi and an NCAA bracketologist go into a bar room to discuss UCLA’s basketball merits … you heard this one?

UCLA coach Steve Alford tries to motivate his team during the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinals loss to Arizona in Las Vegas on Friday. Despite the six-point loss, the Bruins made the field of 64 for the NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/John Locher)

UCLA coach Steve Alford tries to motivate his team during the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinals loss to Arizona in Las Vegas on Friday. Despite the six-point loss, the Bruins made the field of 64 for the NCAA tournament. (AP Photo/John Locher)

THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT OPENING ROUND
UCLA vs. SOUTHERN METHODIST
Details/TV: South Region first-round game at Louisville, Ky., Thursday at approx. noon, truTV:
2015FinalFourLogoApparently, the joke’s on us. We’re going to give CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb enough rope to provide the shot-heard-‘round-the-basketball world sound bite of motivation for 20-13 UCLA, which somehow squirmed into the field of 64 – let along skipping past spots 65-68 – when it was announced Sunday that they’ll be locking arms with Larry Brown’s 27-6 SMU squad in the first round of the Big Dance. If our memory is correct, back in December when UCLA went up against No. 1-ranked Kentucky in Chicago, Gottlieb predicted on the air that the Bruins had a great shot at an upset. Seth Davis almost laughed him off the set. UCLA then fell behind 24-0, scored seven points in the first half and lost by 39. So at the very least, if UCLA doesn’t deserve to be in this event, with a 2-8 record against teams in this field, with only one road win against a Top 100 team, then who’ll get the last laugh when Steve Alford uses all the talk as fuel to ignite this team that’s still growing into its own.

SMU head coach Larry Brown, right, talks with  Nic Moore during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Connecticut.  (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

SMU head coach Larry Brown, right, talks with Nic Moore during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Connecticut. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Then there’s Brown, the Hall of Fame coach who spent just two seasons at UCLA, but one them – the 1979-80 team that finished 22-10, has a No. 8 seed in the West, and went all the way to the championship before losing by five points to Louisville. At the very least, UCLA provides some local rooting interest – aside from the Big West’s UC Irvine making the field and having to face Louisville right away. Pac-12 winner Arizona, along with Utah and Oregon, are the other conference representatives.
A UCLA win over SMU would put the Bruins into the round of 32 on Saturday against the winner of the Iowa State-UAB contest.
First-round games (all in Dayton, Ohio on truTV):
Tuesday: Manhattan vs. Hampton, 3:40 p.m.; Ole Miss vs. BYU, 6:10 p.m.
Wednesday: North Florida vs. Robert Morris, 3:40 p.m.; Boise State vs. Dayton, 6:10 p.m.

ALSO:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL:
NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT BRACKET ANNOUNCEMENT:
Details/TV: Monday at 4 p.m. on ESPN/5 p.m. on ESPNU:
In back-to-back seasons, Big West conference tournament champion Cal State Northridge (23-9) has earned a spot in this field, and ESPN bracketologists project the Matadors as a 14th seed in the Spokane region, forced to travel to Corvalis, Ore., and take on No. 3 seed Oregon State (26-4, 16-2 in the Pac-12) in the first round. Ahlee Guay, CSUN’s career leader in points, assists, steals and blocks, heads a team that’s always been closing – they are 23-0 when they have a lead with five minutes left in the game, yet they’ve played only one game this season that has been decided by fewer than six points. The projected top seeds this year are UConn (32-1), Notre Dame (31-2), Maryland (30-2) and South Carolina (30-2). Note that Gamecocks, a No. 1 seed last year, ousted the 16th seeded Matadors in the first round last season, 73-58. There’s also one unbeaten coming into this year’s bracket – 30-0 Princeton – as first-round games begin Saturday.

ALSO:
NASCAR SPRINT CUP: AUTO CLUB 400
Details/TV: At Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Sunday at noon, Channel 11:

Kurt Busch races on the 64th lap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Kurt Busch races on the 64th lap during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race on Sunday in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Busch Factor creates an interesting storyline here. Defending champion and three-time Fontana winner Kyle Busch, who outlasted rookie Kyle Larson by .214 seconds to win this race last year, continues to recover from a compound break of his right leg and a fracture of his left foot during a wreck at Daytona last month. So he’s not coming out. David Ragan has been replacing Kyle in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, and he finished 21st in last week’s Sprint Cup event in Avondale, Ariz. And then there’s older brother Kurt Busch, who came back from a three-race suspension and made it to the No. 5 spot last week. Maybe it’s just more relief for him that he’s not facing any criminal charges over the alleged assault of an ex-girlfriend last September. Kevin Harvick, winners in two of the first four races this season, already has a sizable lead over Joey Logano in the Sprint Cup standings, while Danice Patrick (we knew you were wondering) is back in 23rd place without a top 10 finish yet.
Also: NASCAR Xfinity series Drive4Clots.com 300
At Auto Club Speedway, Saturday at 1 ;p.m., Fox Sports 1.

THE REST OF THE WEEK INCLUDES:

The men’s and women’s final of the BNP Parabis Open in Indian Wells (Sunday at 11 a.m., ESPN) could led to a every emotional ending for Serena Williams … The Kings have already dropped three of the previous four meetings against the Ducks in this Foaming Frozen Freeway Furious Frenzy, but there’s the last one of the regular season (at Honda Center in Anaheim, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., NBCSN) … The Clippers’ most important game of the week is against Washington (Staples Center, Friday at 7:30 p.m., Prime TIcket) … The Dodgers and Angels are on Fox Sports West — take advantage of it (Thursday at 1 p.m.) … More events at this link.

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The Joe McDonnell Experience: How his sports-talk angst came from the giant-sized heart to make things happen

In the mid '90s, ESPN LA radio issued a Joe McDonnell bobblehead. Photo by Jeff Lasky.

In the mid ’90s, ESPN LA radio issued a Joe McDonnell bobblehead (with partner Doug Krikorian on the other side). Photo by Jeff Lasky.

It was many years ago, as we were talking while scraping together a pre-game dinner in the media room at Staples Center. Or maybe we were jammed into a lunch booth at Trani’s restaurant in Long Beach. It could have been while we waited for the valet to find his car at one of his favorite Chinese restaurants in the Valley right around closing time.

“When I die,” Joe McDonnell once told me, “I want to be cremated and then have a plane spread half of my ashes over Dodger Stadium and the other half over the Forum.”

I actually thanked him for that important information. Knowing how many boxes of ashes McDonnell would have created at that moment in time, based on my rough estimation of his bigger-than-life size, I figured that result would be in a huge, dark cloud blocking out the sun and lingering over the entire city on whenever that awful day happened.

And now, it’s here.

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