Game Day: Hoops and high hopes in Southern California

Editor’s note: This is the Tuesday, Nov. 8 edition of the “Game Day with Kevin Modesti” newsletter. To receive the newsletter in your inbox, sign up here.

Good morning. The college basketball season began last night with the UCLA men winning, USC losing and many of Southern California’s other important programs showing reasons for optimism.

Let’s look at what our papers’ previews have been saying, after a rundown of other news.

Shohei Ohtani isn’t going anywhere – yet – after Angels GM Perry Minasian said he won’t try to trade the two-way star this offseason.
Ohtani is an American League MVP finalist, and the Dodgers’ Julio Urias and Dave Roberts are among the top three vote-getters for National League Cy Young and manager of the year.
Columnist Jim Alexander writes that the Rams still have a path to the playoffs in an NFL season like this.
Gilbert Manzano looks at whether Cooper Kupp screwed up in sliding short of a first down late in Sunday’s loss.
Chargers coach Brandon Staley had a message for fans who expect something to go wrong.
The Clippers scored an improbable come-from-behind win over the Cavaliers.
The Lakers are 2-8 after a blowout loss in Utah without LeBron James.

College basketball is back.

UCLA, ranked No. 8 in the nation, opened by beating Sacramento State as guard Jaylen Clark starred on both ends of the court.

But USC, expecting a third straight NCAA tournament appearance, stumbled badly in a loss to Florida Gulf Coast.

As Southern California News Group readers have been reminded in the past week, there’s more to the game at the college level in this region than the two Pac-12 teams. I went to see CSUN, which has plenty of room for improvement, get off on the right foot with an easy win. Here are some of the other schools to watch:

Long Beach State (20-13, 12-3 and first in the Big West last season)

Picked third this season in a poll of conference coaches, and highest among Southern California’s non-Pac-12 schools in Ken Pomeroy’s national ratings at 137th. Beat Cal Baptist 79-64 last night in Riverside with sophomore forward Aboubacar Traore getting 13 points and 12 rebounds.

From the Press-Telegram’s season preview: Big West scoring leader Joal Murray, a senior, will try to help 16th-year coach Don Monson and the Beach go from its first conference title since 2013 last season to its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2012 this season.

UC Irvine (15-10, 9-5 and fourth in the Big West)

Picked fourth again by conference coaches. Beat Chapman 96-50, with junior guard Dawson Baker one of five Anteaters scoring in double figures.

The Orange County Register’s preview says defense and rebounding should be strengths again for 13th-year coach Russell Turner’s team as it looks to improve on last season’s surprisingly early exit from the Big West tournament.

Cal State Fullerton (21-11, 11-4 and second in the Big West)

Picked seventh by the coaches. Had a tough opener against 19th-ranked San Diego State and lost 80-57 on the road, outshot 54%-39%.

Ninth-year coach Dedrique Taylor has four of his top six players back but did lose some scorers after beating Long Beach state in the Big West title game and losing to Duke in thefirst round of the NCAA tournament.

CSUN (7-23, 3-13 and eighth in the Big West)

Picked 11th (last) by the coaches, and rated lowest among Southern California teams at 314th by Pomeroy. Beat La Sierra (NAIA) 90-55 as JC transfer forward Adam Afifi led with 15 points on 7 for 8 shooting.

In the Daily News, Tarek Fattal writes that no-longer-interim coach Trent Johnson has brought in Afifi and eight other newcomers as the Matadors seek their first winning season since 2008-09, three coaches ago.

UC Riverside (16-12, 9-6 and sixth in the Big West)

Picked fifth by the coaches. Lost at Colorado 82-66 while shooting below 20% on three-pointers.

Columnist Jim Alexander previewed the Highlanders’ season in the Press-Enterprise and saw reasons to dream big, starting with senior guard Zion Pullin and freshman big manLachlan Olbrich.

Loyola Marymount (11-18, 3-12 and ninth in the West Coast Conference)

Picked ninth by the coaches. Beat Life Pacific College (NAIA) 99-49, transfer forward Michael Graham getting 14 points and 13 rebounds in 18 minutes.

Coach Stan Johnson hopes his third season is a bounce-back year, and thinks four Division I transfers can help, led by 3-point shooter Justin Ahrens from Ohio State.

Pepperdine (7-25, 1-15 and 10th in the West Coast Conference)

Picked seventh by the coaches. Beat Rice 106-67, reversing a 19-point loss to that team last year, with sophomore forward Maxwell Lewis and sophomore gourd Houston Mallette combining for 51 points.

Lewis, Mallette and Mike Mitchell Jr. made the freshman all-league team last season, so maybe things are looking up for the Waves in Lorenzo Romar’s eighth season in charge.

Cal Baptist (18-16, 7-11 and ninth in the Western Athletic Conference)

Picked to improve to fifth by conference coaches. Taran Armstrong, the sophomore guard who averaged 6.3 assists last season, led the Lancers with 19 points in last night’s loss to Long Beach State.

Again, Alexander sees good signs for the Lancers, who are eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time. Armstrong (whose brother Tre came off the bench last night), WAC freshman player of the year last season, is the leader of the experienced core for coach Rick Croy.

College basketball has arrived at a court and a newspaper near you.


Kings, 1-0 on a four-game homestand, face the Wild (7:30 p.m., ESPN+, Hulu). Update.


I asked: Who should be top priority for the Dodgers to keep as they make decisions on players such as Clayton Kershaw, Trea Turner, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney, Chris Martin, David Price, Joey Gallo and Justin Turner?

Twitter user @David88Higgins said: “Trea Turner is the most valuable by far, and it’s not even close.”

True. Just don’t tell any other teams.


What has to happen for the 3-5 Rams to improve enough to reach the playoffs and try to defend their Super Bowl championship? Respond by email ( or on Twitter (@KevinModesti).


#Dodgers Dave Roberts is a finalist for NL Manager of the Year award. Reminder — ballots had to be submitted before the postseason started.

— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) November 7, 2022


— Dodgers beat writer Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) after the top three vote-getters for baseball’s major awards were announced yesterday.

1,000 WORDS

All ball: USC freshman guard Tre White steals the ball from Florida Gulf Coast guard Dahmir Bishop in the second half of the Trojans’ loss last night at the Galen Center. Photo is by David Crane of the Daily News and SCNG.


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