THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
NCAA MEN’S TOURNAMENT SELECTION SHOW:
Details/TV: Sunday at 3 p.m., Channel 2:
This could be the start of something perfect, even if perfection is a matter of interpretation. If the current 31-0 Kentucky squad goes wire-to-wire in this year’s 68 team win-or-done event, it would be the first to do it in nearly 40 years – since the ’76 Indiana squad. Look at the odds: In the 75-year history of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, 18 teams finished the regular season undefeated heading into this thing, and just seven went on to win it all – including four UCLA teams (1964, ’67, ’72 and ’73). A year ago, Wichita State had the shock factor, coming in 34-0. But then the Shockers lost in the Round of 32 – the quickest exit of all those previous 18 unbeatens. And the team that the Shockers lost to … don’t even wait for it. It was Kentucky, a No. 8 seed in the Midwest, at-large from the SEC, and not even in the Top 25. From there, the Wildcats parlayed that 78-76 victory into a five-point win in the Sweet 16 against Louisville, a three-point win in the Elite Eight over Michigan, and, in the national semifinals, a one-point win over West Regional winner Wisconsin. Kentucky was a three-point favorite in the national title game against UConn, but it didn’t materialize in a 60-54 loss. How is this John Calipari team different from last year’s? Like the 2014 version, it was a pre-season No. 1 ranked program, but it kept that designation all season this time. Sophomore twins guards Aaron and Andrew Harrison have another year of experience. Junior 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein was a bench player last year but a key starter now. The deepest bench in the country fills out a roster with nine McDonald’s All-Americans. Even though this group dismantled UCLA in Chicago just days before Christmas, it has had some near misses — back-to-back OT wins over Ole Miss and Texas A&M in early January. Even if it they get tripped in the SEC Tournament, a No. 1 seed is pretty much locked up. But no matter how the Wildcats enter the fray, we know Calipari has a 2012 title and three Final Four appearances in his six seasons at Kentucky. They’ll be there at the pay window. Whether or not UCLA or Big West post-season contender Long Beach State joins in remains to be determined.
Key games to watch going into the announcement:
= Pac-12 Tournament final: At MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Saturday at 8 p.m., ESPN.
No. 12 seed USC begins play Wednesday (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network) against Arizona State, with the winner taking on fourth-seed UCLA in the quarterfinals (Thursday, 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network)
= Big West Tournament final: At Honda Center: Saturday at 8:30 p.m., ESPN.
Eighth-seed Cal State Northridge starts Thursday (noon, Prime Ticket) against top-seed UC Davis, followed by fourth-seed Long Beach State (2:30 p.m., Prime Ticket) against fifth seed Hawaii.
= West Coast Conference Tournament final: At Orleans Hotel Arena in Las Vegas: Tuesday at 6 p.m., ESPN.
Pepperdine faces top-seed Gonzaga in the semifinals (Monday, 6 p.m., ESPN), with the winner taking on either BYU or Portland for the title.
= Big Ten Tournament final: Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 2
= SEC Tournament final: Sunday at 10 a.m., ESPN
= ACC Tournament final: Saturday at 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Also, the ESPN “Bracketology” show is Sunday at 4 p.m. after the brackets are determined.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
The 30th L.A. Marathon (Sunday, 7 a.m., Channel 5), from Dodger Stadium-to-Santa Monica pier, includes this noble effort from an LAPD officer running in full uniform … The start of the BNP Paribas Tournament at Indian Wells finds Serena Williams back in as a wildcard entry. She explains ... The Clippers meeting against Houston (Staples Center, Sunday at 12:30 p.m., Channel 7) ends a rugged week that includes stops in Oklahoma City and Dallas … The Kings may be getting Nashville at the best time (Staples Center, Saturday at 7 p.m., FSW), considering the Predators start the week on a six-game losing streak … Look who’s in town to face the Lakers: Derek Fisher and the New York Knicks (Staples Center, Thursday at 7:30 p.m., TWC SportsNet). … More of the week ahead at this link.