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The Sports Report: UCLA (barely) and USC make NCAA men’s tournament

UCLA's Tyger Campbell reacts after a play against Oregon State.
(Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Bill Plaschke on the NCAA men’s tournament: In this newly minted city of champions, the two biggest college basketball programs have been chumps.

The Sunday announcement of this year’s NCAA tournament brackets was a solemn reminder of all those years the locals have gone bust.

The last time a college from Los Angeles won an NCAA Division I national championship, the current players on the UCLA and USC rosters had yet to be born.

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The last time a college from Los Angeles reached the Final Four, the semifinal game featured Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook against a team led by Derrick Rose.

The last time a college from Los Angeles made the Sweet 16, Lonzo Ball was staring down Bam Adebayo and De’Aaron Fox.

It’s been 26 years since a title, 13 years since a Final Four, five years since a Sweet 16.

For a city inhabited by the school with the most NCAA basketball titles — UCLA has won 11, can you believe it? — the drought is as staggering as it is embarrassing.

This March could be, and should be, different.

Neither UCLA nor USC seemingly has a real shot at a national title, but both have been placed on paths that could lead them to the tournament’s second weekend, where a taste of the Sweet 16 would be a delicious triumph for both.

It’s about time. If not now, when? In a pandemic-plagued season filled with abrupt cancellations and strange blowouts and Oregon State winning the Pac-12 tournament, why can’t even the flawed locals do some serious dancing?

Mick Cronin, in his first tournament as UCLA’s coach, has reached the Sweet 16 just once in 11 trips. It says here that in the next eight days, he will coach his team past the likes of Tom Izzo and Shaka Smart, and that one question mark on his résumé will be answered.

“This is a step forward for us … it’s well documented, all the stuff this group’s been through with players and injuries, but we need to play, we need this experience, so that’s probably the thing I’m most happy about,” Cronin said Sunday afternoon.

Andy Enfield of USC has one Sweet 16 appearance in three tournaments as a coach — and the Trojans haven’t made it that far in 14 years — but they’ve rarely had a team this gifted and a tournament schedule this favorable. With a well-calibrated March lineup and winnable games in the first two rounds, there are few excuses for an early exit.

“I think we can do something special,” USC guard Tahj Eaddy said.

Both teams can, starting Thursday night.

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Check out the bracket here

Amid four-game losing streak, UCLA relieved to make NCAA tournament

USC feels good about NCAA tournament seeding after COVID derailed promising 2020

NCAA tournament betting guide: 10 tips on how to win March Madness

UC Santa Barbara to play Creighton in first round of NCAA tournament

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CLIPPERS

Broderick Turner on the Clippers: Before the Clippers lost their second starter to an injury, Coach Tyronn Lue lamented his team’s potential lack of resistance on defense against the New Orleans Pelicans.

Those two missing starters, center Serge Ibaka, who left the game because of back tightness, and point guard Patrick Beverley, are undoubtedly two of the Clippers’ top defenders.

But to give up 110 points through three quarters, and to show indifference to guarding was the primary issue.

The hole the Clippers fell into was as big as 33 points early in the fourth quarter on Sunday night in New Orleans, meaning they were just waiting to accept the eventual 135-115 beat-down delivered by the Pelicans.

Zion Williamson was a force with 27 points, missing only three of his 16 shots.

Brandon Ingram was smooth with his 23 points, shooting seven of 12 from the field and three of six from three-point range.

LAKERS

Dan Woike on the Lakers: Veteran forward Jared Dudley has torn the medial collateral ligament in his right knee, the team announced Sunday afternoon.

The Lakers said Dudley is “evaluating his treatment options” and that a timeline for his return will be given when appropriate.

Dudley has played in only 11 games this season, scoring six points. However the 14-year veteran is a well-respected presence in the locker room, liked by young players and the Lakers’ superstar core.

In his second year with the Lakers, Dudley, 35, appeared in 45 regular-season games with one start during their championship season.

DODGERS

Jorge Castillo on the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw’s first start as a World Series champion in a meaningful game is scheduled to come on opening day against the Colorado Rockies.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts confirmed the decision Sunday, less than three weeks before the club begins the 2021 regular season at Coors Field. It would be Kershaw’s franchise-record ninth opening day start — he started every opening day from 2011 through 2018. It could’ve been his 11th, but injuries have prevented Kershaw from pitching on opening day the last two seasons.

In 2019, shoulder soreness interrupted Kershaw’s spring training. He was ruled out by mid-March.

Last season, he was scratched hours before the Dodgers began their truncated 60-game season after being named the opening day starter twice — during spring training before Major League Baseball shut down operations in March and again in July when the club reconvened for summer camp.

KINGS

Philipp Grubauer made 27 saves, Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri each had a goal and an assist and the Colorado Avalanche beat the Kings 4-1 on Sunday.

Nathan MacKinnon and Joonas Donskoi also scored for Colorado. The Avalanche swept the two-game series with Los Angeles and allowed fewer than 30 shots on goal for the 16th straight game, extending a franchise record set Friday night.

Cal Petersen made 37 saves for the Kings after setting a career high with 44 on Friday night.

“Outstanding, very calm,” coach Todd McLellan said about Petersen. “Gave us a chance to steal one the other day. Today we played a better game but we’re not at their level yet. But he was what we thought he could be and what he has been all year. He was outstanding.”

NFL

Saints quarterback Drew Brees, the NFL’s leader in career completions and yards passing, has decided to retire after 20 NFL seasons, including his last 15 with New Orleans.

“Till the very end I exhausted myself to give everything to the Saints organization, my team and the great city of New Orleans,” Brees said in social media post on Sunday, 15 years to the day after he signed with the Saints.

“We shared some amazing moments together, many of which are emblazoned in our hearts and minds and will forever be a part of us,” Brees continued. “I am only retiring from football. I am not retiring from New Orleans. This is not goodbye.”

The post also included a short video in which his four young children — the three boys wearing No. 9 Saints jerseys — exclaimed, “Our dad is finally going to retire so he can spend more time with us!”

NCAA MEN’S SCHEDULE

All times Pacific
Thursday
Play-in round

No. 16 Texas Southern vs. No. 16 Mount St. Mary’s, 2 p.m., TruTV
No. 11 Drake vs. No. 11 Wichita State, 3:25 p.m., TBS
No. 16 Appalachian State vs. No. 16 Norfolk State, 5:30 p.m., TruTV
No. 11 UCLA vs. No. 11 Michigan State, 6:45 p.m., TBS

Friday
South Regional
No. 7 Florida vs. No. 10 Virginia Tech, 9:15 a.m., CBS
No. 3 Arkansas vs. No. 14 Colgate, 9:45 a.m., TBS/TruTV
No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 Utah State, 10:45 a.m., TBS/TruTV
No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 15 Oral Roberts, Noon, CBS
No. 1 Baylor vs. No. 16 Hartford, 12:30 p.m., TruTV
No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Wisconsin, 4 p.m., CBS
No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 13 North Texas, 4:25 p.m., TNT
No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 12 Winthrop, 6:45 p.m., TNT

Midwest Regional
No. 1 Illinois vs. No. 16 Drexel, 10:15 a.m., TNT
No. 8 Loyola Chicago vs. No. 9 Georgia Tech, 1 p.m., TBS
No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 12 Oregon State, 1:30 p.m., TNT
No. 4 Oklahoma State vs. No. 13 Liberty, 3:25 p.m., TBS
No. 2 Houston vs. No. 15 Cleveland State, 4:15 p.m., TruTV
No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Rutgers, 6:15 p.m., TBS
No. 6 San Diego State vs. No. 11 Syracuse, 6:30 p.m., CBS
No. 3 West Virginia vs. No. 14 Morehead State, 6:50 p.m., TruTV

Saturday
West Regional
No. 3 Kansas vs. No. 14 Eastern Washington, 10:15 a.m., TBS
No. 5 Creighton vs. No. 12 UC Santa Barbara, 12:30 p.m., TruTV
No. 6 USC vs. Drake or Wichita State, 1:30 p.m., TNT
No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 15 Grand Canyon, 3:25 p.m., TBS
No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Ohio, 4:15 p.m., TruTV
No. 8 Oklahoma vs. No. 9 Missouri, 4:25 p.m., TNT
No. 1 Gonzaga vs. App. State or Norfolk State, 6:15 p.m., TBS
No. 7 Oregon vs. No. 10 Virginia Commonwealth, 6:45 p.m., TNT

East Regional
No. 5 Colorado vs. No. 12 Georgetown, 9:15 a.m., CBS
No. 4 Florida State vs. No. 13 UNC Greensboro, 9:45 a.m., TruTV
No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 St. Bonaventure, 10:45 a.m., TNT
No. 1 Michigan vs. Texas Southern or Mount St. Mary’s, Noon, CBS
No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 15 Iona, 1 p.m., TBS
No. 7 Connecticut vs. No. 10 Maryland, 4 p.m., CBS
No. 6 BYU vs. UCLA or Michigan State, 6:30 p.m., CBS
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 14 Abilene Christian, 6:45 p.m., TruTV

And finally

Jeanie Buss interview: How much longer will LeBron play? Should Kobe be the NBA logo? Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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