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:
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.
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.
Thanks for reading the newsletter. Send suggestions, comments and questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and via Twitter @KevinModesti.
Editor’s note: Thanks for reading the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.
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