Editor’s note: This is the Sunday, March 19, edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
Good morning. UCLA carries the region’s hopes for this basketball season after its men’s and women’s teams advanced in the NCAA tournaments last night. And it has been a pretty hopeful season all around in Los Angeles-area college basketball.
In other sports news:
Arte Moreno gave his first interview to local reporters in more than three years, downplayed fans’ disappointment that he remains Angels owner, and said he hasn’t yet talked with Shohei Ohtani about staying with the team. The Dodgers are counting on a return to form by Max Muncy to help make up for the lineup’s loss of Trea Turner, Justin Turner and Gavin Lux. Trea’s grand slam sent Team USA past Venezuela and into the World Baseball Classic semifinals against Cuba. The Clippers rested Kawhi Leonard and lost to the Magic, and Russell Westbrook accepted the blame. The Kings blew a chance to go into first place, dropping a shootout to the Canucks. Goalkeeper John McCarthy saved LAFC, which stayed unbeaten with a scoreless draw in Seattle. Losing its home opener to Vancouver kept the Galaxy winless. Carlos Alcaraz and Danill Medvedev advanced to today’s men’s final at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Bernhard Langer emerged from a six-way tie with the lead going into today’s final round of the PGA Champions Tour’s Hoag Classic at Newport Beach Country Club. Jordan Chiles and UCLA finished second in the Pac-12 women’s gymnastics championships in Salt Lake City. UCLA’s men’s basketball team beat Northwestern 68-63 in the second round in Sacramento last night to move into the Sweet 16 in Las Vegas, where the Bruins will meet the winner of today’s Gonzaga-TCU game.
“The matchup gave UCLA a glimpse of what Big Ten Conference basketball will be like when it joins the conference in 2024, which is a physical brand of play,” Tarek Fattal wrote from Sacramento. There were worrisome moments when Adem Bona aggravated his left shoulder and David Singleton turned his right ankle. Neither injury seems to be as bad as it looked.
“It’s toughness,” columnist Jim Alexander, also reporting from Sacramento, wrote of the Bruins’ winning ingredient, saying it’s “the characteristic that (coach Mick) Cronin brought with him from Cincinnati four years ago.”
The UCLA women’s team had an easier time in its opening-round game in the NCAA tournament, beating Sacramento State 67-45 at home at Pauley Pavilion, and will face Oklahoma in the round of 32 at Pauley on Monday night.
“In the past, too much pressure has caused cracks,” Haley Sawyer wrote from Westwood, but coaches and players were able to keep the mood light, and at one point the Bruins had four freshmen on the court.
The other L.A.-area team alive in the college basketball postseason is the UC Irvine women’s team, which opened the women’s National Invitation Tournament by beating San Diego State 55-45 on Friday and will face the University of San Diego at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Monday night.
Back in November, the newsletter opened the college basketball season with a reminder that optimism in Southern California extended beyond UCLA’s high-ranked men’s team. In addition to USC, we looked at eight other men’s programs. And we said it UCLA’s and USC’s women’s teams were in for a big year.
As columnist Mirjam Swanson wrote a few days ago, this turned out to be the first time since 1992 that the UCLA and USC men’s and women’s teams all played in the NCAA tournaments.
As USC beat writer Adam Grosbard explained, the Trojans have a bright future despite their opening-round loss to Michigan State and the impending departures of NBA draft candidate Boogie Ellis and senior Drew Peterson.
It has been an encouraging season for a lot of teams around here. Looking back at expectations in November, of our region’s eight biggest men’s programs that aren’t UCLA and USC, five finished higher in the standings than their conferences’ coaches predicted in preseason polls: Big West co-champion UC Irvine, third-place UC Riverside and fourth-place Cal State Fullerton, as well as Loyola Marymount (an improved fourth in the West Coast Conference) and even CSUN (picked for 11th in the Big West, finished … 10th).
The UCLA and USC women’s teams began the season among “others receiving votes” for the Associated Press top 25. UCLA is No. 17 right now. USC got as high as No. 25.
As far as March Madness is concerned, only the two Bruin teams are playing on.
But college basketball all over the L.A. area is alive.
Clippers go to Portland trying to capitalize on the second of six straight games against sub-.500 teams (6 p.m., BSSC). Lakers meet the Magic at Crypto.com Arena with their chances of making the playoffs down to 26.5%, per basketball-reference.com (6:30 p.m., SPSN). Ducks host the Canucks, who are seven points ahead of them in sixth place in the Pacific Division (5 p.m., BSW). Ducks update. Team USA faces Cuba in the World Baseball Classic semifinals in Miami (4 p.m., FS1). Angels face the Giants in Scottsdale, Ariz. (12:55 p.m., BSW). Yesterday’s game report. Dodgers play the Athletics in Glendale, Ariz. (1 p.m., SNLA). Yesterday’s game report. The BNP Paribas Open women’s final pits No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenko against No. 10 seed Elena Rybakina (1 p.m., Tennis Channel). How they got here. The PGA Champions Tour Hoag Classic goes into the final round with Newport Beach resident Fred Couples two shots off the lead (TV coverage at 1 p.m., Golf Channel). The Los Angeles Marathon’s 38th edition takes runners from Dodger Stadium to Century City (coverage started at 6:30 a.m., Ch. 5). Preview. Santa Anita runs an 11-race thoroughbred card (12:30 p.m., FanDuel TV). Los Alamitos presents eight quarter-horse and thoroughbred races (6:20 p.m.). BETWEEN THE LINES
New Las Vegas odds on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament have raised UCLA to third choice to win it all after the losses by No. 1 seeds Kansas in the West and Purdue in the East. The Bruins, No. 2 seed in the West, are listed at odds ranging from +650 to +800, below Alabama (+.450 to +480)), top seed in the South, and Houston (+450 to +500), top seed in the East.
“The best thing I saw in sports today was the Thiago Almada free kick. The camera angle directly behind him. Wow.” – LAFC beat writer Josh Gross ((at)yay_yee) on a goal by the Atlanta United midfielder against Portland yesterday. Here’s video.
Double team: UCLA’s Christeen Iwuala, right, and Gabriela Jaquez, left, try to take the ball away as the Bruins held Sacramento State to a season low in points in a 76-50 win last night at Pauley Pavilion. Photo is by Keith Birmingham of the Pasadena Star-News and SCNG.
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