College Hoops Saturday: Your Commentary

February 25th, 2011
Saturday brings about the biggest game in the history of the San Diego State (27-1, 12-1) program, which before the recent run of Steve Fisher has been an afterthought in southern California. BYU (26-2, 12-1) visits Viejas Arena with the winner taking a significant step towards not only the Mountain West's regular season crown but possible a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Both have resumes that could merit such mention should the winner go on to win out, including the conference tournament (BYU is 8-1 vs. RPI Top 50, SDSU 4-1), but that's of little concern. Jimmer Fredette scored 43 points in BYU's 71-58 win back on January 26th and it's pretty obvious that job one for the Aztecs defensively is to force the senior to take tough shots.

The problem there, even with SDSU likely to show Fredette a number of looks beginning with Billy White, is that Fredette is one of the most impressive shot-makers in college basketball. But the permanent green light can get you in trouble as well, and Fredette shot 9-for-26 in scoring 34 points in BYU's win over Colorado State earlier this week. In BYU's win over San Diego State Brandon Davies was the only other Cougar to reach double figures (14 points), and Jackson Emery shot 1-for-7 from the field. Emery likely needs to be a factor on Montezuma Mesa, and he has the potential to be if left alone with his 22-point performance in BYU's win at UNLV being a prime example.

San Diego State has an All-America worthy star themselves in sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard, who battled sickness in posting a line of 22 points and 15 rebounds in Provo. Leonard ranks among the most versatile players in America, and his overall skill set provides SDSU with an individual matchup few teams can match. The key for the Aztecs will be the play of their interior players, most notably White, Brian Carlwell and Malcolm Thomas. Carlwell played just four minutes in the first meeting while Thomas and White combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field. They'll need to be better in the rematch if the Aztecs are to exact a measure of revenge, but one positive SDSU could take out of that game is their 42-35 rebounding edge.

The Aztecs are a very good rebounding team, especially on the offensive end (38.2% OR%) and if the Cougars fail to keep Leonard and company off the boards they'll be in for a long afternoon. Davies and Noah Hartsock are the leading rebounders for BYU but they both hover around the six per game mark. It will need to be a team effort on the glass for Dave Rose's team at Viejas, because if the the game is played closer to the tempo SDSU prefers (63.8 possessions/game to BYU 72.5) and they don't those extra possessions become even tougher to withstand. Despite the difference in possessions and points per game (BYU: 83.0; SDSU: 72.4) the two teams are close in regards to offensive efficiency and rebounding is a reason why. While Fredette can go off for 43 again, the safer bet for them winning would be to hold their own on the boards.

San Diego State has some good guards as well with D.J. Gay and James Rahon leading the way. Gay leads the team in minutes played and the Mountain West in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.0). He can also knock down shots, averaging 12.1 points per game and the ability to get hot if left alone as he did in the win at New Mexico last month. Rahon's been their best three-point shooter with a percentage of 43.1%, and Chase Tapley can also knock down the perimeter jumper at a solid rate. They may need to do so if BYU makes the move to collapse on SDSU's interior game, and despite the Aztecs' ability to execute offensively they stand a good chance to run into a few zone defenses down the road (pick your poison). The only negative for this game: it has to start at 11 am local time, meaning that the team with the upper hand early will be the one that's alert from the opening tip.

Virginia Tech host top-ranked Duke in a contest the Hokies need to feel completely secure with their NCAA Tournament prospects. That's what happens when you go on the road and lose to Virginia, but a win over the Blue Devils in front of what should be a charged crowd would go a long way in erasing the sting of being swept by the Cavaliers. The matchup between Malcolm Delaney and Nolan Smith should be worth the price of admission itself, but if those two cancel each other out Jeff Allen and Kyle Singler could be the players to determine the outcome. Georgetown plays their first full game without point guard Chris Wright (broken left hand) and maybe the presence of bitter rival Syracuse brings out the best in the Hoyas. It will be interesting to see how John Thompson III and his staff go about dividing the point guard duties between now and the NCAA Tournament, when they hope to have their senior back.

Florida visits Kentucky and St. John's takes on Villanova in two other games matching ranked teams, and Arizona visits UCLA with a chance to clinch at least a share of the Pac-10 title. Reeves Nelson played well in the first meeting between the two but the Wildcats proved to be too much. This time around it's going to take a group effort to not only slow down Derrick Williams but beat the Wildcats. Memphis and UTEP meet with both teams in desperate need for wins, not just for a puncher's chance at an NCAA bid but also to keep pace in a Conference USA race that has five team within a game of each other atop the standings. And many conferences are wrapping up their regular seasons this weekend, meaning a lot's too be decided with regards to seeding for a number of conference tournaments (Wichita State at Missouri State will determine the MVC champ).

Top 25
9:00 PM (1) Duke at Virginia Tech (ESPN)
4:00 PM (2) Kansas at Oklahoma (ESPN)
2:00 PM (7) BYU at (4) San Diego State (CBS)
4:00 PM (5) Texas at Colorado (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Seton Hall at (9) Notre Dame (ESPNU)
4:00 PM (10) Arizona at UCLA (FSN)
12:00 PM (20) Syracuse at (11) Georgetown (CBS)
4:00 PM (13) Florida at (22) Kentucky (CBS)
2:00 PM (25) St. John's at (14) Villanova (ESPN)
9:00 PM (17) Texas A&M at Baylor (ESPNU)
1:45 PM (18) Vanderbilt at LSU (ESPN3)
12:00 PM (21) Missouri at Kansas State (ESPN)
9:00 PM Idaho at (23) Utah State
2:00 PM (24) Temple at George Washington

NCAA Division I Games
11:00 AM Bowling Green at Miami (OH) (ESPNU)
12:00 PM Boston College at Virginia
12:00 PM James Madison at VCU
1:00 PM UNC Wilmington at Northeastern
1:00 PM Wichita State at Missouri State (ESPN2)
1:05 PM Southern Illinois at Indiana State
1:05 PM Milwaukee at Youngstown State
1:30 PM Arkansas at Auburn (ESPN3)
1:30 PM Texas Tech at Oklahoma State (ESPN3)
1:45 PM Nebraska at Iowa State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Miami (FL) at Florida State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Georgia Tech at North Carolina State (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Wofford at Furman
2:00 PM South Florida at DePaul (ESPN3)
2:00 PM Green Bay at Cleveland State
2:00 PM Citadel at Appalachian State
2:00 PM Loyola (IL) at Butler
2:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Davidson
2:00 PM Rhode Island at Fordham
2:00 PM Delaware at Hofstra
2:00 PM Central Connecticut State at Long Island
2:00 PM Radford at UNC Asheville
2:30 PM NJIT at North Dakota
3:00 PM Texas-San Antonio at Texas State
3:00 PM Texas-Arlington at Northwestern State
3:00 PM Memphis at UTEP (ESPN2)
3:00 PM New Orleans at Victory University
3:05 PM Illinois State at Evansville
3:30 PM USC Upstate at Campbell
3:30 PM Monmouth at Sacred Heart
4:00 PM Lehigh at Holy Cross
4:00 PM Drexel at Towson
4:00 PM Alabama at Mississippi (ESPN3)
4:00 PM Wake Forest at Clemson
4:00 PM William & Mary at Old Dominion
4:00 PM American at Lafayette
4:00 PM Army at Bucknell
4:00 PM Colgate at Navy
4:00 PM Fairleigh Dickinson at Quinnipiac
4:00 PM Central Arkansas at Southeastern Louisiana
4:00 PM St. Bonaventure at Saint Joseph's
4:05 PM Arkansas-Little Rock at Arkansas State (ESPN3)
4:30 PM Michigan at Minnesota (BTN)
4:30 PM South Carolina State at Bethune-Cookman
4:30 PM Coastal Carolina at Charleston Southern
4:30 PM Nicholls State at McNeese State
4:30 PM Howard at Maryland-Eastern Shore
4:30 PM Lipscomb at Mercer
4:30 PM Coppin State at North Carolina A&T
4:30 PM Bryant University at St. Francis (NY)
4:30 PM Charleston at Western Carolina
5:00 PM Chattanooga at Samford
5:30 PM Prairie View A&M at Alabama State
5:30 PM IUPUI at Centenary
5:30 PM Jackson State at Mississippi Valley State
6:00 PM Harvard at Yale
6:00 PM Columbia at Princeton
6:00 PM California at Oregon State
6:00 PM Dartmouth at Brown
6:00 PM UAB at Houston (CBS College)
6:00 PM George Mason at Georgia State
6:00 PM Stanford at Oregon
6:00 PM Mississippi State at Tennessee (ESPN)
6:30 PM North Carolina Central at Florida A&M
6:30 PM Colorado State at Air Force (The Mtn.)
6:30 PM Ball State at Central Michigan
6:30 PM Morgan State at Norfolk State
7:00 PM Jacksonville at Stetson
7:00 PM South Carolina at Georgia (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Cornell at Pennsylvania
7:00 PM Southern Methodist at Marshall
7:00 PM Iowa at Illinois (BTN)
7:00 PM Buffalo at Akron
7:00 PM Southern Miss at UCF
7:00 PM Troy at Florida International
7:00 PM High Point at Gardner-Webb
7:00 PM Ohio at Kent State
7:00 PM Richmond at Charlotte
7:00 PM Wagner at Robert Morris
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at St. Francis (PA)
7:00 PM Northern Illinois at Toledo
7:00 PM Virginia Military at Winthrop
7:05 PM Drake at Bradley
7:30 PM Arizona State at USC
7:30 PM Elon at Georgia Southern
7:30 PM Belmont at Kennesaw State
7:30 PM Texas Southern at Alabama A&M
7:30 PM Hampton at Delaware State
7:30 PM Louisiana-Lafayette at Louisiana-Monroe
7:30 PM Liberty at Presbyterian
7:30 PM Morehead State at Tennessee-Martin
7:45 PM North Florida at Florida Gulf Coast
8:00 PM Louisiana Tech at San Jose State
8:00 PM UC Davis at UC Riverside
8:00 PM Duquesne at Saint Louis
8:00 PM Tulane at Tulsa
8:00 PM East Carolina at Rice
8:00 PM Western Kentucky at Middle Tennessee
8:00 PM New Mexico at TCU (CBS College)
8:05 PM IPFW at UMKC
8:05 PM Western Illinois at Oral Roberts (ESPN3)
8:05 PM UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State (ESPN2)
8:05 PM Montana at Eastern Washington
8:05 PM Sam Houston State at Lamar
8:05 PM Illinois-Chicago at Valparaiso
8:30 PM Denver at North Texas
8:30 PM St. Thomas (TX) at Texas-Pan American
8:30 PM Pacific at UC Irvine
8:45 PM Eastern Kentucky at Murray State (ESPN3)
8:45 PM Southeast Missouri State at Austin Peay
9:00 PM Northern Iowa at Creighton
9:00 PM Gonzaga at San Diego
9:00 PM Grambling State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
9:00 PM Alcorn State at Southern University
9:00 PM Eastern Illinois at Tennessee State
9:00 PM Jacksonville State at Tennessee Tech
9:00 PM Houston Baptist at Utah Valley
9:05 PM Northern Arizona at Northern Colorado
9:30 PM Chicago State at South Dakota
9:30 PM Oakland at Southern Utah
10:00 PM Wyoming at UNLV (The Mtn.)
10:00 PM Loyola Marymount at San Francisco
10:00 PM Pepperdine at Santa Clara
10:00 PM Seattle at Cal State Bakersfield
10:05 PM Weber State at Sacramento State
10:05 PM Montana State at Portland State
10:30 PM Boise State at Nevada (ESPN3)
11:00 PM Portland at Saint Mary's
11:05 PM Cal Poly at Cal State Fullerton (ESPNU)
12:00 AM New Mexico State at Hawaii (ESPN3)