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Christine Daniels SOUND AND VISION

Packer prefers UCLA as a topic

April 04, 2008|Christine Daniels

It was rolling along as most conference calls with Billy Packer do -- ask a question, brace for a lot of listening. Then, Packer was asked about a report that this weekend's Final Four, the 34th of his career, might be his last.

"When I do my game, the last game, the last game will be like that first one," the CBS analyst said tersely. "I'll put a headset on, I'll take a headset off. It will be what it is."

And that was it.

It was a cryptic response, open to more than one interpretation, but not unprecedented for Packer.

"He has given that answer in other years," said Leslie- Anne Wade, CBS Sports senior vice president of communications. "We do not have an announcement planned for Monday."

Packer was more effusive when asked about UCLA, which plays Memphis at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the first of two semifinal games. In the second game, the Roy Williams Testimonial, North Carolina plays Kansas. The winners meet for the championship at 6 p.m. Monday.

When Ben Howland took over as UCLA coach in 2003, Packer said, "he inherited a program that was relatively soft in the way that they approached the game. He imposed his will and style on it and has recruited around that.

"And I think that the kids he has now are really tough. They play tough and I think more so now that, let's say, that they have a big man and everybody in the country would love to have [Kevin] Love as their center. But I think the main thing you think about, even as great as Kevin has been, is their intensity defensively and how they play and not stepping back in any phase, as opposed to the finesse and incredible flexibility of UCLA under John Wooden.

"I'm not saying they didn't play great defense, because obviously they were phenomenal. But I think there is more of a difference in style than 'We now have a big man.' You never saw Bill Walton or Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] step outside and make those kind of passes or basically step outside and take jump shots. I think it was very different to what we're looking at right now."

But Love is not the key to the Bruins breaking through to a championship in San Antonio, Packer said.

"The key will be that Josh Shipp scores in double figures in both games," Packer said. "Because against this type of competition, they've got to get another scorer, and in my estimation he's got to be the guy."

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Also available for viewing this weekend:

Dodgers at San Diego Padres (tonight, 7, Channel 9; Saturday. 12:45 p.m., Channel 11; Sunday, 1 p.m., Channel 9): After Wednesday's rain-delayed home loss to San Francisco, the Dodgers head south to Petco Park. There it often rains on the Dodgers in the figurative sense.

Texas Rangers at Angels (tonight, 7, Prime; Saturday, 6 p.m., FSNW; Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Channel 13): The Angels open their home schedule with three games on three TV channels. The Angels might be home, but they continue to travel all over the place.

Women's Final Four (Sunday, 4 p.m., ESPN): Both semifinal games are rematches -- Connecticut (36-1) trying to duplicate a November triumph over Stanford (34-3), followed by SEC rivals Louisiana State (31-5) and Tennessee (34-2), who split their two meetings this season. Tennessee's bid to successfully defend its title depends on All-American Candace Parker, who dislocated her shoulder in the first half of the Lady Vols' regional final win over Texas A&M, remarkably returned to play in the second half and was cleared Thursday to play this weekend.

Ducks at Kings (Saturday, 1 p.m., FSNW): The Kings end their season the way they started it -- against the Ducks, though far removed from London and any of the optimism they might have had last fall. The game marks a sign-of-the-times juncture for both teams: The Kings, wrapping up another dismal season, are now tied for the worst record in the league, and the Ducks are readying themselves for another playoff run.

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christine.daniels@latimes.com

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