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Best Bets: College basketball conference tournaments take center stage

BEST OF THE WEEK College Basketball March 11-16 Pac-12 Tournament, T-Mobile Arena, Las VegasWednesday, first roundUSC vs. Arizona, noon, Pac-12 networkColorado (19-11) vs. Cal (8-22), 2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network.UCLA (16-15) vs. Stanford (15-15), 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network.Oregon (19-12) vs. Washington State (11-20), 8:30 p.m., Pac-12 NetworkTitle Game: Saturday, March 16, 7:30 p.m., ESPN
Baseball fans who chafe at the length of the regular season have nothing on college basketball fans. From the opening tip, everything is a perfunctory game leading up now, when college tournaments and bids are flying like confetti a Mardi Gras.
As noted before, the West is a mess and the number of teams from this close that will secure bids is limited. Neither UCLA not USC got a first round bye in the Pac-12, which means they’ll need to win four games in four days. Good luck with that; UCLA opened the season 4-0 under Steve Alford before he was fired. USC did it once, too, but it included dregs Cal and Stanford.
The league still may get just one bid. Washington and Arizona State can’t afford to lose their first game. Arizona is going to miss the NCAA tourney, too.
West Coast Conference Tournament March 11-12, at Orleans Arena, Las Vegas Monday, March 11Gonzaga vs. Pepperdine, 6 p.m. (ESPN, Watch ESPN)St. Mary’s vs. San Diego, 8:30 p.m. (ESPN2, Watch ESPN)Championship Game: Tuesday 6 p.m. (ESPN, Watch ESPN)
The WCC ran off their early rounds last week and have a semifinal doubleheader Monday on ESPN2 starting at 6 p.m., No. 1 seed Gonzaga (29-2) against upstart Pepperdine (16-17), which KO’d USF in the quarterfinals, and No. 2 St. Mary’s (20-11) against University of San Diego (21-13). The title game is Tuesday at 6 p.m. ESPN. Maybe this is Gonzaga’s year.
Big West Tournament March 14-16, Honda Center ThursdayUC Santa Barbara (21-9) vs. Northridge (13-19), noon, ESPN3Cal State Fullerton (14-16) vs. UC Davis (11-19), 2:30 p.m., ESPN3UC Irvine (27-5) versus UC Riverside (10-22), 6 p.m., ESPN3Hawaii (18-12) vs. Long Beach State (14-18), 8:30 p.m., ESPN3Semifinal: Friday, 6 p.m., 9 p.m. ESPNUTitle Game: Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN2.
A conference that has embraced parity could be a real raffle, again. Of the 72 conference games, 35 were decided by ten point or less. The Anteaters were dominant all season but Long Beach played brilliantly in the one Irvine loss. Cal State Fullerton lost three of its last four, much as they did a year ago before winning the tournament. Six teams have a legitimate shot.
Mountain West Conference Tournament March 13-16, Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas WednesdayBoise State (12-19) vs. Colorado State, (12-19), 11:30 a.m., MWNNew Mexico (13-17) vs. Wyoming (8-23), 2 p.m., MWNAir Force vs. San Jose State, 4 p.m., MWNThursdayNevada (28-3) vs. TBD, Noon, CBS Sports NetworkSan Diego State (19-12) vs. UNLV (17-13), 2:30p.m., CBS Sports NetworkUtah State (25-6), vs, TBD, 6 p.m., CBS Sports NetworkFresno State (22-8) vs, TBD, 8:30 p.m. CBS Sports NetworkTitle Game, Saturday, 3 p.m., CBS Sports Network
BEST OF THE REST NBA March 11, 14-15, 17 The Clippers are L.A.’s most relevant team., and they have four tough games Against Boston tonight, Portland (Thursday), Chicago (Friday) and Brooklyn Sunday, all on Prime Ticket.
Golf March 14-17 The Player’s Championship returns to Sawgrass in Florida with all of the top names having sent their clubs and caddies already. Matt Kuchar (2), Brooks Koepka, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson and Ricky Fowler have already posted wins this season and every match has drama with so many good golfers in the top 20. A pox on those who said golf would fade once Tiger Woods lost his edge.
NASCAR March 17 It’s a home date for the stock cars. They run the big concrete pit in Fontana Sunday (noon).
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