SAN DIEGO -- What's the best thing about San Diego State being nationally relevant?
Trips to San Diego!
Let's do the Weekend Look Ahead.
Top game: I'm in California for Jimmer vs. The Aztecs II, otherwise known as No. 7 BYU at No. 6 San Diego State. It's a huge game because it'll almost certainly decide the Mountain West Conference and possibly propel one school -- either BYU (26-2) or SDSU (27-1) -- to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. It's also huge because it provides a rare opportunity for the nation's biggest star (Jimmer Fredette) to play on CBS (and CBSSports.com), which means we've got America's leading scorer on America's most-watched network. With any luck, Fredette will be good enough to boost ratings and help offset the loss of Two and a Half Men. Speaking of which, that might be the best way for San Diego State to guard him -- with two and a half men.
Another interesting matchup: The NCAA tournament no longer seems at risk for Michigan State (provided the Spartans don't lose to silly Iowa again) because their body of work, as disappointing as it is relative to preseason expectations, will still be strong enough to get Tom Izzo's team into a 68-school field. So Sunday's game with No. 8 Purdue is not a must-win situation. But it is a would-make-everybody-feel-better-about-us-if-we-won situation, and that makes it important in its own right because why wouldn't the Spartans want folks to feel better about them?
Yet another interesting matchup: Syracuse appeared on the verge of a possible slide with back-to-back tilts at Villanova and Georgetown this week. But the 17th-ranked Orange's game at Villanova turned out to be one in which Corey Fisher couldn't make a shot. So they won. And now they get to play Georgetown in a game were Chris Wright won't make a shot because he's out with a broken hand suffered in Wednesday's loss at Cincinnati. Consequently, the Orange will probably win this one, too. Or at least they should. Because Georgetown ought to be vulnerable without its point guard, who had surgery Thursday morning and thus won't be available Saturday afternoon.
Guaranteed to be a blowout: Ohio State is 18-0 at home. Indiana is 0-9 on the road. The two teams play Sunday at Value City Arena, which means No. 2 Ohio State will be home and unranked Indiana will be on the road. The records I just cited suggest this game won't be close. OSU's 85-67 win over the Hoosiers back in December suggests something similar.
Guaranteed to be an upset: I'm pretty sure I picked unranked Michigan State over No. 8 Purdue in a preview I recorded with Jason Horowitz. So I'll be consistent and take the Spartans here, too. If they lose, I'll either explain for the second straight weekend why I'm stupid to pick against Purdue or just retweet last Sunday's item and change details where necessary. All depends on how I feel (and whether I have Wi-Fi on my flight home from California).
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Missouri State knows this scenario. On the verge of the NCAAs, close enough to smell it, only to get the rug pulled out. Read More >>
Player trying to keep rolling: Jacob Pullen and his beard have been fantastic recently, scoring a total of 92 points in Kansas State's past three games. So the senior guard is averaging more than 30 per contest during this three-game winning streak that could turn into a four-game winning streak if Pullen continues his surge Saturday against No. 20 Missouri. Another thing working in KSU's favor is that Mike Anderson's Tigers are 2-5 in road games. Their best win is at Oregon -- a place where it's slightly easier for visitors to win than Bramlage Coliseum.
Player trying to get rolling: Arizona's Derrick Williams has played 28 games this season and scored double-digits 27 times. The lone exception came during Thursday's loss at Southern California in which the likely Pac-10 Player of the Year missed eight of the 11 shots he took and finished with just eight points. A similar effort Saturday at UCLA could lead to a similar result. If it does, the Wildcats and Bruins would then be tied for first atop the league standings heading into the final week of the regular season.
Three things you need to know
1. Last week was a bad week for Wichita State and Missouri State because both Missouri Valley Conference members lost in Bracketbusters. This weekend will be better because the Shockers and Bears play each other, meaning one of them has to win. And considering both schools are 14-3 in the league and atop the conference standings, Saturday's winner will immediately become MVC champion.
2. No. 13 Florida plays at No. 22 Kentucky on Saturday. A win would move the Gators to 23-5 overall and 12-2 in the SEC, and it would secure the SEC East title. The more likely scenario, though, has them dropping to 22-6 overall and 11-3 in the SEC considering the Wildcats have won 32 straight games at Rupp Arena.
3. Pittsburgh has a well-earned reputation as an outfit that's nearly impossible to beat at home, but it should be noted that Jamie Dixon's team is also great on the road. The Panthers are 6-1 in true road games, with the lone loss coming almost at the buzzer at St. John's last weekend. A win over 16th-ranked Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center on Sunday would give Pitt its fourth road win over a top-35 RPI team, which would tie Georgetown for most in the nation.
Final thought: Will the AP poll's top-ranked team lose for the third straight week?
That's up to Virginia Tech.
The Hokies host No. 1 Duke late Saturday in an important game for both schools. It's big for the Blue Devils because a win would keep them atop the polls and ACC while a loss would drop them into a tie for first with North Carolina in the league standings (provided the Tar Heels handle Maryland on Sunday). It's big for the Hokies because they're again on the bubble in late February and in need of a signature victory to bolster a body of work lacking substance.
Virginia Tech enters the weekend with zero top-50 RPI wins.
The Hokies are 0-5 against the top 50.
They have three losses outside of the top 100.
As lackluster as that seems, the truth is that Virginia Tech remains in position to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which says more about the lack of quality around the nation than it does anything else. Still, do the Hokies really want to enter the ACC tournament with no marquee wins? That seems like a dangerous way to live. So they would be wise to seize the opportunity in front of them and get it done this weekend. Otherwise, Seth Greenberg will likely be sweating Selection Sunday for the 147th consecutive year, and, as you know, that's just not a good look for anybody.