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Trojans seek important road win after UCLA upset

first_imgComing off of its biggest win of the season, an 84-76 victory over then-No. 8 UCLA at the Galen Center, USC will be tasked with traveling up north to take on Washington (9-12,  2-7) Wednesday night. Entering the Alaska Airlines Arena for its contest against the Huskies, USC and Washington are two programs heading in completely opposite directions. The Huskies are entering Wednesday night’s matchup in the midst of a three-game losing skid. Washington’s most recent loss came on Sunday against No. 5 Arizona, 77-66. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Trojans have won consecutive conference matchups and will enter their game against Washington just one week after topping a highly favored UCLA team at home. However, the Huskies do present a threat to USC. In Washington’s loss to Arizona this past weekend, freshman guard Markelle Fultz — one of the most touted players in the nation — finished with 16 points (8-of-23 shooting), nine rebounds and three assists. On Tuesday, Fultz was announced a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award, which is awarded to the top point guard in the country. Fultz is also on the midseason list for the Wooden Award, which is given annually to the top player in the nation. The leading scorer in the Pac-12, averaging 23.3 points per game (No. 6 nationally) this season, Fultz is the only player in the country to be averaging 20 points, six rebounds and six assists per game — and the Trojans are more than aware of the threat he poses.“[Fultz] is a great player at all three levels. He can score the ball well and gets his teammates involved,” junior guard Jordan McLaughlin said. “We’ve been practicing on keying in on him and knowing where he is at all times defensively.” Washington currently sitssecond-to-last in the Pac-12 standings, only ahead of an Oregon State team that is winless in conference play this season. However, eight of the Huskies’ nine total victories this season have come on their home floor at the Alaska Airlines Arena. Washington is 8-5 overall at home this season and 1-7 on the road. “We’ve just got to come in really prepared,” junior guard Elijah Stewart said. “We’ve got to make stops in transition, and make someone else on their team be an impact player.”Stewart’s one-handed putback slam against UCLA was one of the biggest highlights in the Trojans’ victory over the Bruins last Wednesday. Stewart finished the contest against UCLA with 15 points and three steals. Another emerging threat for USC is redshirt sophomore guard Shaqquan Aaron, who was named the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Player of the Week on Monday for his 23-point effort off of the bench against the Bruins. In a career-best performance, Aaron shot 4-of-9 from beyond the arc to spur on the Trojans’ upset victory. “Big games, big stage, these are the types of games you want to perform well in,” Aaron said. Wednesday’s contest with Washington will mark the beginning of the end of conference play for USC; it has only nine Pac-12 games remaining on its schedule this season, including the tilt in Seattle. “[The Huskies] are scrappy, and they aren’t just going to let anyone walk in there and get a win,” McLaughlin said. “We’re just worried about focusing on the task at hand right now. Practicing, getting better, we just have tunnel vision right now.” After taking on Washington on the road, USC will remain in the state of Washington for its following contest against Washington State (11-10, 4-5) on Saturday.last_img read more

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Courtside: MLB’s bizarre plan to save its season might just save America’s pastime

first_imgBaseball fans, rejoice: The finish line — or, more appropriately, the starting line — is in sight. MLB has made concerted efforts in recent years to grow the game to a broader demographic, and frankly, those efforts haven’t gone far enough — a baseball aficionado like myself can acknowledge that much. Knocking a few seconds off the average game by automatically issuing intentional walks instead of requiring four half-assed lobs wide of home plate can only go so far in attracting a younger audience that seems increasingly drawn to the flash and flair of the NBA and NFL.  Bad news: It’s probably not happening. As of last week or so, the NBA has been preparing scenarios to fully shut down the remainder of the 2019-20 season.  If baseball returns in May — far earlier than anyone originally expected — those who have been turned off from baseball because of its perception as slow and boring will come crawling back to their television sets for America’s national pastime even if simply because it’s the only option.  Despite all the league’s shortcomings when it comes to spreading the game, it might get bailed out by the unlikeliest of catalysts: the coronavirus pandemic.  The problem for MLB isn’t that the games are too long, it’s that the league thinks that’s the problem. Meanwhile, it has failed to take the essential step that its American major-sport counterparts have long since figured out by now: marketing its own players. It’s why, according to YouGov, 91% of Americans have heard of LeBron James, 88% have heard of Tom Brady and only 43% have heard of Mike Trout. The league seems more preoccupied with the Sharpie colors on players’ cleats than the fact that maybe, just maybe, fans are drawn to personality more than tradition.  On Monday, ESPN Major League Baseball insider Jeff Passan reported that MLB is considering a plan to locate all 30 teams at Arizona hotels and use various Spring Training facilities and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in Phoenix to hold games possibly as early as May. I realize this is an ideal situation for absolutely no one. I just want baseball back, and in my eyes, everything else is gravy — but I realize I’m far outnumbered by my equivalents in the basketball sphere. For the basketball diehards, especially those in Los Angeles, it’ll be a tough pill to swallow. But come May, if there’s anything, anything happening in the sports world, even those who (incorrectly) claim baseball is boring will come to their collective senses and compromise. MLB will likely do everything it can to make baseball happen this year not just because it wants Bryce Harper’s 2020 MVP campaign to materialize, but also because it wants the pastime to become the present-time and future-time as well.  It’s exactly what MLB needs. If the league can find a way to grasp the moment and run with it, the impact will last well beyond the scope of the current crisis. Based on Passan’s report, the early signs indicate that MLB is realizing this opportunity. The league is considering regularly equipping players with microphones during games to provide an enhanced broadcast experience for viewers similar to the in-game interviews broadcast crews often held with players during Spring Training. Exposing an expected high number of fans to the concept that baseball players are actually living, breathing human beings with personalities rather than robots who stand around trying not to fall asleep all game should do wonders for the game’s appeal. For every MLB fan who can’t wait to see Houston Astros take 95 to the ribs once baseball returns, there are 10 NBA fans dying for a chance to see LeBron take on Giannis Antetokounmpo in the NBA Finals or Zion Williamson cap off his rookie season with a New Orleans Pelicans playoff chase. In general, it’s becoming increasingly evident that fans would push everything else aside just for a chance to see the 2019-20 NBA season played out until one team reigns supreme. Nathan Ackerman is a sophomore writing about sports and sociopolitics. He is also an associate managing editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “Courtside,” typically runs every Friday. The concept that MLB can actually capitalize on the fact that U.S. society has shut down due to a virus that has taken thousands of lives in the last few weeks is incredibly bittersweet — and far more bitter than sweet. Though the road has been depressingly unfortunate and tragic, the destination is one that MLB can use as an opportunity to provide desperate fans with the entertainment we’ve so sorely been lacking ever since college sports were called off March 12. To say it would be a stray from the norm would be quite the understatement. The league could use electronic strike zones and seven-inning doubleheaders, ban fans from attending and mandate that players sit in the stands six feet apart rather than in the dugout during games.  It’s a golden opportunity, and Major League Baseball should be chomping at the bit. Nevermind how indisputably bizarre the plan is — should it go into action, which is still far from a certainty as it currently stands, the league’s status as the sole operating sports league in the United States would put it in a prime position to largely alleviate one of its most pressing concerns of the past decade.last_img read more

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