College Basketball Weekend Preview
San Diego State looking for revenge, while St. Johns demands respect.
by Aaron Torres / @Aaron_Torres
Although the end of college basketball season is sometimes a bit sad, it’s also a time to celebrate. Why? Because we’re headed into the most jam-packed weekend of college hoops we’ve had the entire year.
Which games do you need to keep an eye on? Let’s examine:
It’s not often that a sequel is better than the original. The Godfather is obviously one that comes to mind, and I’d make the case that Major League II is better than just plain, old Major League. Still, if BYU-San Diego State “The Rematch,” is anything like the original, we’re all in for a treat.
By now you all know the narratives of these two programs. BYU has been Jimmering all over teams this season, with star guard Jimmer Fredette not only leading the Mountain West in scoring, but leading the country too, at over 27 points per game. Also, did we mention that Fredette dropped a cool 43 on the Aztecs the first time these two got together? And just how impressive is that, you know, considering that San Diego State only allows 58 points per game?
Still, for all the talk about Fredette, we need to realize how important this game is for the Aztecs. Yes they’re ranked No. 4 in the country, and yes they’ve won all seven games since their only loss in Provo. However, of those seven wins, four of them have come by single digits. Add in that their best wins (St. Mary’s, Wichita State) are nowhere near as good as BYU’s (Arizona, Utah State, San Diego State), and all of a sudden, it becomes clear that the Aztecs need this win much more than the Cougars do.
Look, we’re not saying either team will miss the NCAA Tournament if they lose here. But NCAA Tournament seeding is still very much in the air. And San Diego State needs this one…bad.
Talk about two teams going in completely different directions. St. John’s enters this one hotter than Brooklyn Decker’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit cover, having won seven of eight, including victories over Duke, UConn and Pitt in that stretch. Not too shabby I’d say. Meanwhile Villanova hasn’t just been bad lately, it’s been flat out pathetic. The Wildcats have lost five of nine, with their most recent win coming in overtime against…DePaul. Wow. Someone better call in FEMA, because Jay Wright’s team is officially a government mandated disaster area.
The one thing that the Wildcats do have going for them though, is that for all the success St. John’s has had recently, virtually none of it has come on the road. The Red Storm has beaten five ranked teams, yet none of them have come outside the cozy confines of Madison Square Garden.
With that said, this is a game Villanova absolutely has to win. Remember how we called Saturday an important day for San Diego State? In the case of Villanova, multiply that by 100.
Despite popular belief (and despite my cable operator’s protests), there is actually basketball being played in the Pac-10 this year. And you know what? A lot of it is actually pretty good. That’ll certainly be the case when Arizona heads to UCLA this weekend.
Most of you know the story of Derrick Williams by now: He dunks. He rebounds. He blocks big shots. He leaps tall buildings in a single bound. Stop me if you’ve heard it all before, ok?
What you probably don’t know however, is that UCLA is one of the hottest teams in the country. Ben Howland’s club has won 11 of 13 (after starting Pac-10 play 1-3), and a win here would put them in a first place tie in the Pac-10 standings with Arizona, headed into the last week of the regular season.
Believe it or not, there’ll be more reasons than just “BYU vs. San Diego State,” to tune into some West Coast basketball Saturday. Do not miss this one.
You know why I’m most looking forward to this game (Well besides the fact that it’ll set a record for “Most combined hair-gel used between two coaches”)? It’s because there won’t be a more fascinating contrast in style between two ball-clubs this weekend.
For Pitt, we know that Jamie Dixon’s club wants to slow down tempo, execute in the half-court and play in your face defense. That’s just what they do, plain and simple. And by the way, if they win here, the Panthers will all but wrap up the Big East regular season title. Think they’ll be fired up?
As for Louisville, well, if you’ve watched them, you know they like to play a little faster than Pitt. Like, “We’re trying to break the speed of sound on our fast break,” fast. Incredibly, Louisville ranks in the Top 10 nationally in assists per game, steals per game and three-point field goals per game, not to mention they rank No. 1 in “flustered coaches hurriedly calling timeouts to stop a run.” Again, this team doesn’t just play fast. They’re super-charged.
Here are a few more games to keep your eyes on…
Either way, this is a team that you will need to know come March. Do yourself a favor and tune in Friday night.
No. 20 Syracuse at No. 12 Georgetown, Saturday, 12:00 p.m.: Georgetown point guard Chris Wright will miss this game with a broken hand, transforming this game from a “Georgetown lock,” to “nearly unwatchable since Syracuse kinda sucks, and Georgetown couldn’t get the ball past half-court without Wright in Wednesday’s loss to Cincinnati.” Tune in at your own risk.
At the same time, Kentucky still hasn’t lost a game at Rupp Arena all year. Really, I have no idea what to think about the Wildcats anymore.
No. 1 Duke at Virginia Tech, Saturday 9 p.m.: Anyone who regularly reads my work, knows I’m not really a fan of Seth Greenberg’s work. As far as I can tell, he’s an A+ whiner and only a B- coach. Two losses to Virginia this season verify that to a degree.
Still, at home, at night, can’t you see the Hokies pulling an upset here?