Sports Beat, 3-21-08

--USC's season came to a fitting conclusion last night, as their first round loss to Kansas State exemplified the unfulfilled promise that has been a constant theme this year. Simply stated, Kansas State destroyed USC on the boards, and the Trojans never got into an offensive flow. The Wildcats were probably better than their No. 11 seed indicated, and a healthy Bill Walker did them a world of good.

If this is the end of the OJ Mayo era, then it will go down as a disappointment. One might argue that it's not Mayo's fault that he was overhyped, but he was every bit as responsible for building up the Mayo PR machine as anyone. If Mayo goes to the NBA, then he'll probably be a late-lottery pick, and his time at USC will be remembered for a 4th place Pac-10 finish and a first round exit in the Big Dance. On the bright side though, Mayo did elevate the status of the program, and it's hard to imagine the Trojans recruiting a stud like Demar DeRozan without OJ coming here first. Hopefully, the two will have a chance to play together.

--UCLA needs to be careful not to let its dominating 70-29 victory over Mississippi Valley State get to its head. Yes, 29 points represents the greatest defensive effort in NCAA Tournament history, but the Delta Devils didn't belong in the Big Dance and were lucky to win their conference tournament to get in. I think all UCLA fans remember 1995, when the No. 1 seeded Bruins breezed past a sub-.500 Florida International team in the first round, only to need a Tyus Edney miracle to beat Missouri in the second round.

Texas A&M has a great team, and they're probably better than their seed indicates. They've had some struggles recently, but they're capable of playing a great game with a tough front line of Joseph Jones and DeAndre Jordan. I'm assuming though that Ben Howland won't let his team be over-confident though. Looking ahead, the Bruins caught a bit of break with both UConn and Drake being upset by San Diego and Western Kentucky, respectively. Should UCLA beat Texas A&M, then they would face either a No. 12 or a No. 13 seed in Phoenix. And looking even further ahead, No. 2 seed Duke looks very weak after squeaking past Belmont yesterday, so it's very possible that a team like Xavier could wind up playing in the Elite 8.

--The Lakers have signed Ira Newble as they make their push for the playoffs. Admittedly, I've never been a big Newble fan, but with Trevor Ariza likely out into the playoffs, having another body to play defense will help. The Lakers aren't expecting much from Newble, and they're not paying him much either. So it can't hurt to have him around.

In the meantime, the Lakers are coming off of two of their best wins of the season. Dallas and Utah are two of the toughest places in the NBA to play in, and without Pau Gasol the Purple and Gold found a way to win in both. Lamar Odom in particular had a nice game at Utah last night. With Gasol getting better quickly, and the Lakers leading the West again, things are looking bright in Lakerland.

--The Dodgers are wondering who will be their Opening Day second baseman and third baseman. Jeff Kent hasn't played since March 4 because of a strained hamstring, and may not have enough spring training at-bats to be ready by the time the season starts. Nomar Garciaparra has a microfracture in his hand, and he will likely need to go on a rehab assignment.

There is some speculation that the Dodgers will make a trade to fill these holes, but I don't think that's necessary. The team already has a stacked farm system, and there's no need to give up any of their top prospects to take care of a 2-week problem. Tony Abreu is an excellent young player, and he was probably slated to be the Opening Day third baseman before news came through on Kent today, Abreu is a natural second baseman and would probably fit in better there. Chin-lung Hu, who I think is a terrific young player might force sports writers and commentators alike to say "Hu's on third" come March 31 against the Giants. Blake DeWitt and Ramon Martinez are other options at third, and Delwyn Young is an outside possibility at second base. Hu can also play second.

March 21, 2008 8:53 PM • Native Intelligence • Email the editor

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