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The 5 Best Lineups in San Diego Sports: December 2023

What not to miss on the local sports scene this month
Courtesy of San Diego State University Athletics
SDSU Men's Basketball, Azetcs

SDSU vs UCSD men’s basketball

Friday, December 1 | 7:00 p.m. | LionTree Arena, UCSD

Watch: ESPN+ | Listen: San Diego Sports 760

Move over, New York Yankees and Mets. There’s a new transit-oriented sports rivalry on the map. With the opening of MTS’s Blue Line trolley extension in 2021, the SDSU and UCSD campuses became linked by transit. A year later, the schools’ baseball teams inaugurated the so-called Trolley Series. The SDSU and UCSD men’s basketball programs pick up the lightrail rivalry on December 1 and, unlike the Subway Series, features teams that aren’t wholly disappointing.

SDSU is 6-1 following its run to the Final Four last season, and UCSD just hosted the nationally televised Rady Children’s Invitational basketball tournament. The game is sold out—don’t forget your PRONTO cards—but fans can catch it on ESPN+ or San Diego Sports 760.

San Diego Sockers vs Tacoma Stars

Sunday, December 3 | 5:05 p.m. | Pechanga Arena San Diego

The most decorated sports team in San Diego isn’t the beloved Padres, the ascendent Wave, or the departed Chargers. It’s the Sockers, the 16-time champions of professional indoor soccer. They may not be as familiar as the other teams, but the Sockers winning tradition at Pechanga Arena stretches back to 1982.

Sadly, their December 3 home opener represents something of a farewell at what the team affectionately calls “the grand old arena.” They’re relocating to Oceanside’s brand-new Frontwave Arena after this season. Catch their electrifying brand of soccer before they head up the coast.

San Diego Gulls vs Henderson Silver Knights

Saturday, December 16 | 6:00 p.m. | Pechanga Arena San Diego

Watch: KUSI-TV | Listen: San Diego Gulls Audio Network

For my money, hockey is the best live sport, Hawaiian shirts are the best garment, and Christmas is the best holiday. Those three things joyously collide at the Gulls next home game on December 16, as the team gives away Gulls Hawaiian shirts as part of their Winter Wonderland/Teddy Bear Toss Night. There’s even a pregame tailgate in the parking lot. Just don’t mind the standings.

The Gulls are mired in last place in the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division and face the minor-league affiliate of the Stanley Cup-winning Las Vegas Golden Knights. If there’s ever a time for a miracle on ice, it’s during the holiday season. 

DIRECTV Holiday Bowl

Wednesday, December 27 | 5:00 p.m. | Petco Park

Watch: TBD | Listen: TBD

The festivities around the college football Holiday Bowl offer something for everyone. There’s America’s Largest Balloon Parade and the Snapdragon Bowl Bash downtown. For those wanting to relive the glory days, there’s a tailgate party, and for those who like to wake up at 5 a.m. there’s a 5K walk/run. If the expected USC-Clemson matchup comes to fruition, there will be visiting Angelenos saying San Diego is “really nice” (as if we needed their confirmation). 

And of course there’s the Holiday Bowl game itself, which is typically one of college football’s best matchups of the year and one of San Diego’s great sports traditions. It has been played in the city since 1978 and Petco Park was recently modified to host it. Teams will be announced on December 3, but get your tickets now before a bunch of Trojans run up the prices.

SDSU vs No. 11 Gonzaga men’s basketball

Friday, December 29 | 6:00 p.m. | Spokane, Washington

Watch: TBD | Listen: San Diego Sports 760

It’s that time between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Everyone’s faking work so they don’t burn vacation days. You’re full and drowsy from six weeks of holiday eating and you’re staring into the winter abyss. That is, unless you’re an SDSU fan.

It seems the men’s basketball team always figures it out in December, dive-bombs into the AP Top 25 rankings, and reminds everyone that San Diego has more than just beaches and sunshine. It has one of the best, most-consistent basketball programs in the country. After starting last season 7-3, SDSU’s win against Kennesaw State in December propelled them to win 25 of their next 28 games on the way to the NCAA championship game. Their matchup at No. 11 Gonzaga will indicate whether SDSU has yet another postseason run in them.

By Brendan Dentino

Brendan Dentino is a U.S. Navy veteran, writer, and public servant based in San Diego. He writes weekly about baseball and politics at Out in Left.

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