With the Super Bowl behind us, college basketball now has the center stage in TV sports virtually to itself, as the NBA continues to push through its dog days and to the February 17 All-Star Game, and the NHL tries to gain some steam in its season and regain credibility with the fans. This first post-NFL week of college hoops is bookended by Notre Dame basketball, and Chicago’s pro sports teams get plenty of love themselves.
The Fighting Irish hoops program hasn’t played for a national title recently, as their more famous brethren on the football field did last month. Nor do they, to the best of our knowledge, have a star player caught up in online relationship scam. What Notre Dame basketball is doing is hanging right in the hunt for a Big East title, where they’re only a half-game back of Syracuse and Marquette. The Irish start the week off tonight with a visit to the Carrier Dome to meet Syracuse (7 PM ET, ESPN) and then they close the week on Saturday night with a prime-time showdown against Louisville in South Bend (9 PM ET, ESPN). Here at TheSportsNotebook, I’ve liked ND as a title contender—not just Big East, but nationally—since the start of the season. I’m not quite sure if Mike Brey’s team is there just yet, but this week will certainly give a handle on the situation.
Notre Dame has a considerable fan following in Chicago, and there are good games outside the world of college hoops for folks in the Windy City. The Blackhawks are off to a fast start, and on Tuesday night they visit equally red-hot San Jose in a game you can catch on the NHL Network at 10:30 PM ET. And don’t look now, but the Bulls are only 2 ½ games behind the Miami Heat in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and still have the return of Derrick Rose to look forward to. On Thursday night, watch Chicago visit a good Denver team at 10:30 PM ET in the back end of TNT’s NBA doubleheader. Then catch the Bulls again the next night in Utah (10:30 PM ET, ESPN)
If you’re a Chicago sports fan with a collegiate attachment to Notre Dame, you’ve got stuff to do all week—start it with ND-Syracuse tonight, catch the Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Bulls on Thursday & Friday, and then close it out with Louisville-Notre Dame on Saturday night.
There’s also a steady diet of Los Angeles sports available on national television this week. It starts Tuesday when the Lakers go to Brooklyn (7:30 PM ET, NBA-TV). Then it’s the Lakers again on Thursday night to start the TNT doubleheader with a game in Boston at 8 PM ET.
That same night you can get the DVR going to get Washington-UCLA (9 PM ET, ESPN) in a game the suddenly slumping Bruins really need to win if they’re going to stay in the Pac-12 race. For those who want to watch both the Lakers & UCLA on Thursday, my suggestion would be to watch the Laker game live, because TNT won’t show college scores. Then when the game is over, or the following morning, watch UCLA (I know, I analyze the details on this stuff way too much).
The Clippers take over the show on Friday night with a high-profile visit to Miami (8 PM ET, ESPN). The Clips are a struggling team themselves and surely want to recover and get at least the #2 seed in the West. Here at TheSportsNotebook we’re going to take a closer look at them later in the week.
Sunday is then an all-day affair of Los Angeles sports. Start with hockey and last year’s Stanley Cup champion Kings, as they visit Detroit. The Kings are off to a slow start this year, which in of itself is not a big deal, but with a compressed schedule, you don’t want to dig too big of a hole. The Kings-Wings battle is at 12:30 PM ET on NBC. This is another game where they won’t show NBA scores on the crawl line, so you can set the DVR for both Clippers-Knicks and Lakers-Heat in an ABC doubleheader that starts at 1 PM ET.
Or you could just watch ESPN talk shows, from First Take to Pardon The Interruption where they talk about the Lakers every single day, ad nauseum. And look forward to baseball when the Dodgers and Angels are likely early favorites to reach the World Series. Never mind, I’m getting sick already.
THE REST OF THE WEEK
Here’s the rundown on the key TV sports events beyond the Chicago Irish and Hollywood packages…
Monday: If the Irish-Orange game doesn’t do it for you, there’s a pretty good Big 12 game going on ESPNU at 7 PM ET, when Oklahoma visits Iowa State. Both teams are pushing hard for NCAA bids. And not to push this Chicago point too hard, but the Bulls play the Pacers in a non-TV game. NBA junkies who have the League Pass package might prefer that game.
Tuesday: The game of the night is Ohio State-Michigan (9 PM ET, ESPN), with the Buckeyes trying to stay alive for the Big Ten title and the Wolverines looking to rebound after Saturday night’s loss in Indiana. There are a couple SEC powers in action, with Florida-Arkansas (7 PM ET, ESPN) and South Carolina-Kentucky (9 PM ET, ESPNU) if you want to check out the Gators and Wildcats in games they should win easily. On the NHL front, Tampa Bay is off to a strong start, has the league’s best offensive player in Steven Stamkos and will be on NBC Sports Network at 7:30 PM ET to play Philadelphia.
Wednesday: Tonight’s fairly quiet, and the best action has an East Coast feel, starting with UConn-St. John’s (7 PM ET, ESPN) and mixing in an NHL game with Boston-Montreal (7:30 PM ET ESPNU). The Bruins are atop the East, the Canadiens are in fourth and the two franchises loathe each other’s existence.
Thursday: I mentioned both ends of the TNT NBA doubleheader, with Lakers early and Bulls late, plus UCLA. There’s really a bigger question that pertains to tonight. How is it, that in a world where every college sporting event remotely worth watching is on TV somewhere, and in a world where Duke gets on TV every time they have an intrasquad scrimmage, does it happen that Duke’s home game with N.C. State is not on TV anywhere? But ESPN2 will carry Clemson-Virginia at 7 PM ET. I don’t get it all.
Friday: We covered ESPN’s NBA twinbill, with the Clippers early and the Bulls late. That’s it for tonight.
Saturday: You can make this a college basketball marathon day—well, assuming you don’t have a life anyway, building to the Louisville-Notre Dame finale at 9 PM ET and it would start with Michigan-Wisconsin (Noon ET, ESPN). If that game becomes dull, you can switch to Ole Miss-Missouri (1 PM ET, CBS) in a key game between two slumping SEC teams. Then at 2 PM ET pick with North Carolina-Miami on ESPN. We chronicled the Tar Heels a little more in-depth on Sunday and the Hurricanes have a two-game lead in the ACC. Shift to the Big 12 at 4 PM ET on ESPN with Kansas-Oklahoma. For some odd reason, a good Cincinnati-Pitt game at 6 PM ET isn’t on the tube anywhere, so take a break and get something to eat. You can also skip the LSU-Alabama game at 8 PM ET on ESPN. I’m not sure if the network is still in football mode. Alabama’s pretty good, but LSU is terrible. Then cap it off with Cards-Irish from South Bend.
Sunday: Besides the Los Angeles Trifecta in the NHL and NBA, you’ve got a very good college game in Indiana-Ohio State (1 PM ET, CBS). It’s the end of a big week for Ohio State that started with their trip to Ann Arbor on Tuesday and at some point during the week—probably tomorrow, TheSportsNotebook will give Buckeye basketball a closer look. And on Sunday night, it’s a good NBA game on ESPN with San Antonio-Brooklyn (8 PM ET).