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JERRY CROWE

Underdog talk dogged UCLA against Villanova

Text messages from press row.

March 26, 2009|JERRY CROWE

The Sweet 16 is not so sweet in Westwood this year. . . .

Ben Howland didn't have the horses this time around -- that was the nation's No. 1 recruiting class? -- but the UCLA coach did the Bruins no favors by putting it into their heads they would be prohibitive underdogs in Philadelphia against Villanova. . . .

In reality, despite playing on a familiar court, Villanova was favored by only 2 1/2 points over the Bruins. . . .

Two rounds into the NCAA tournament, North Carolina is still the favorite, according to odds posted at BodogLife.com, while Arizona and Xavier are 50-1 longshots and Pittsburgh's Sam Young is the top pick to become the Final Four's most outstanding player. . . .

Their pounding of the Oklahoma City Thunder aside, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers seem to have bought into the idea that they should sail right through the playoffs to the NBA Finals. . . .

Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs have yet to show they're going to be much of a threat. . . .

Now that Curt Schilling is officially retired, let the debate begin: Should the blog-maintaining right-hander who won three World Series rings with the Boston Red Sox and Arizona Diamondbacks join his famous bloody sock in the Hall of Fame? . . .

Schilling never won a Cy Young Award or posted a league-best earned-run average, but he was phenomenal in October and his strikeout-to-walk ratio ranks among baseball's all-time best. . . .

According to projections by Rotoworld.com, as reported by USA Today this week, Manny Ramirez will bat .310 with 34 home runs and 115 runs batted in this season. . . .

For the Angels, Vladimir Guerrero will bat .316 with 26 home runs and 100 RBIs. . . .

Joe Torre and Mike Scioscia could live with those numbers. . . .

A proposal to lengthen the NFL season and play the Super Bowl on Presidents Day weekend is all about the Benjamins, even if Ben Franklin never did hold the nation's highest office. . . .

The Tour de France is a wonderfully grueling test of stamina and strength, but will anyone in the U.S. watch if Lance Armstrong is not participating or contending? . . .

All but left for dead after falling to 12th in the West a little more than a week ago, Ryan Getzlaf and the Ducks might be this year's dreaded "team nobody wants to meet in the playoffs." . . .

The Kings are cooked -- again. . . .

USC used to be known as Tailback U., but with Mark Sanchez joining Carson Palmer, Matt Cassell, Matt Leinart and John David Booty next fall, the Trojans will have more former quarterbacks in the NFL than former tailbacks. . . .

By the way, Pete Carroll's search for a new quarterback starts Saturday, the opening day of spring practice. . . .

UCLA, which opens spring drills next week, also will take a long look at its quarterback situation, even though Kevin Craft is returning for Coach Rick Neuheisel. . . .

Redshirt freshman Kevin Prince and incoming freshman Richard Brehaut, starting classes Monday after graduating early from Los Osos High, are expected to take the majority of snaps during the first two weeks of spring drills. . . .

Heavyweights Eddie Chambers and former World Boxing Council champion Samuel Peter take to the stage Friday evening as part of the first boxing card at Nokia Theatre. . . .

Longtime UCLA trainer Tony Spino, inducted Saturday into the athletic hall of fame at Glendale College, has worked with 25 NCAA championship teams at UCLA and has served for the last several years as John Wooden's primary caregiver. . . .

Michael D'Antonio, author of "Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles," will sign books for two hours starting at 7 tonight at the ESPN Zone at L.A. Live. . . .

At a St. Patrick's Day signing last week in Vero Beach, former umpire Bruce Froemming came dressed as a leprechaun and recalled O'Malley's "Umpires Day" promotion at Ebbets Field, "where anybody legally blind got in for free." . . .

Owen Wilson visited the Texas Rangers' camp last weekend, reportedly to research an upcoming role in which he'll play a professional pitcher vying with a businessman, played by Paul Rudd, for the affections of Reese Witherspoon. . . .

According to Sports Illustrated, "by common estimates among athletes and agents, the divorce rate for pro athletes ranges from 60% to 80%." . . .

It's a wonder they ever marry.

--

jerome.crowe@latimes.com

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