THIS WEEK’S BEST BET:
COLLEGE BASKETBALL 2015-16 SEASON OPENERS:
UCLA vs. MONMOUTH
Details/TV: At Pauley Pavilion, Friday at 8 p.m., Pac-12 Network:
USC vs. UNIVERSITY OF SAN DIEGO
Details/TV: At Galen Center, Friday at 5 p.m., Pac-12 Network
The Bruins and Trojans open the 2015-16 college basketball season at home.
Perhaps it could have been a Shanghai surprise.
One of the things that the Pac-12 wants to do more of these days is conquer new territory, spread cultural good will and create teaching moments. The Pacific Rim is just as much as Pac-12 territory as anywhere else. Lorenzo Romar’s University of Washington, turns out, was sold on the idea of going thousands of miles from home, bringing along Shaka Smart’s University of Texas team, for the first U.S. sports league – collegiate or professional – to hold a regular-season contest in China (Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN, taking place at 11 a.m. Saturday in Shanghai). Yes, it counts. How much extra in the RPI, we’re not sure.
(As long as we’re bragging about taking chances, how about the fact Gonzaga faces Pittsburgh in their opener in Okinawa, Japan – ESPN, 4 p.m., leading into Washington-Texas).
Meanwhile, UCLA and USC will play it safe. Real safe.
Soon enough, the third season for Bruins coach Steve Alford will eventually include a Pauley Pavilion visit by Kentucky (Dec. 3), a trip to Hawaii for Maui Invitational that could draw Kansas (Nov. 24), a game at Gonzaga (Dec. 12) and a roadie in Brooklyn against North Carolina (Dec. 19). But in the process of playing nine home games in the first 14 non-conference opponents, the Bruins start off with a MAAC team that went 18-15 last season, and then get the Big West’s Cal Poly on Sunday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network), 13-16 last year. Normal Powell and Kevon Looney are gone, but Alford’s son, junior guard Bryce, leads a group with only one senior (6-foot-9 postman Tony Parker) and two highly-recruited freshman guards in Aaron Holiday (Campbell Hall) and Prince Ali to share the ball.
UCLA, coming off two Sweet 16 appearances and 50 wins in the last couple of season under Alford, didn’t crack the Top 25 of the first AP writers and USA Today coaches poll. Neither did USC, but that’s somewhat expected.
Trojans coach Andy Enfield has just a 23-41 record in his two seasons, and the gleam off his Sweet 16 run with Florida Gulf Coast might be lost by now. USC lost seven league games by five points or less in 2014-15, and coming back are junior guard Katin Reinhardt (12.5 points a game), Pac-12 All-Freshman guard Jordan McLaughlin (12.1 points), and 6-foot-11 forward Nikola Jovanovic (12.3 points, 7 rebounds). They are joined by freshman forwards Chimezie Metu (6-foot-11 out of Lawndale High) and Bennie Boatwright (6-foot-10 out of Village Christian High). USC’s preconference schedule will include nine of 13 games at home, with the most intriguing a trip to Orlando, Fla., to face No. 10 Wichita State on Thanksgiving Day.
Other openers of national importance on Friday: No. 1 North Carolina vs. Temple (4 p.m., CBS SportsNet), No. 2 Kentucky vs. Albany (4 p.m., SEC Network), No. 3 Maryland vs. Mount St. Mary’s (4 p.m., Big Ten Network), No. 5 Duke vs. Siena (4 p.m., ESPNU), No. 12 Arizona vs. Pacific (6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), No. 14 Cal vs. Rice (8:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), No. 16 Utah vs. Southern Utan (6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), Arizona State hosting Sacramento State (4:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network), Washington State vs. Northern Arizona (5:30 p.m. Pac-12 Network), and St. John’s hosting Wagner (3 p.m., Fox Sports 1). The first game of the Friday official opener: Vermont at Eastern Michigan, 11 a.m. local time.
Other local openers: Pepperdine at Fresno State (Friday, 7 p.m.), Loyola Marymount vs. Cal State Fullerton (Friday, 7 p.m.), Long Beach State vs. BYU Hawaii (Saturday, 4 p.m.), Cal State Northridge at Northern Illinois (Friday, 5 p.m., ESPN3), Cal State San Bernardino at Azusa Pacific (Friday, 7:30 p.m.), and Cal State Dominguez Hills at Cal Baptist (Friday, 7 p.m.).
ALSO THIS WEEK:
Ronda Rousey goes to Australia to improve her MMA global brand by taking on local Holly Holm in UFC 193 (Saturday, 7:45 p.m., pay per view) …The 11th week of college football has UCLA playing its final home game (Saturday, vs. Washington State, 7:45 p.m., ESPN) and USC going to Colorado (Friday, 6 p.m., ESPN2) … The Clippers won’t be able to hide out in Dallas (Wednesday, 5 p.m., ESPN) … The NHRA Auto Club Finals rev back up at Pomona (Thursday-Sunday, ESPN2) … Have you ever seen cricket played? Dodger Stadium will have an exhibition (Saturday, 6:30 p.m.) … More at this link …