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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

BYU building debate-proof case to be No. 1 NCAA seed


SAN DIEGO -- After turning in another Player of the Year performance in yet another big win over San Diego State, BYU's Jimmer Fredette interviewed with Clark Kellogg, chatted briefly with Steve Kerr, gave a thumbs-up to Vern Lundquist and began exiting the court through a tunnel here at Viejas Arena with his index finger held high in the air.

A guy in a San Diego State hoodie apparently took offense.

He threw something and hit the nation's leading scorer in the back.

Surrounded most of the game, Jimmer Fredette responds by matching his season high with nine assists. (AP)  
Surrounded most of the game, Jimmer Fredette responds by matching his season high with nine assists. (AP)  
"No idea what it was," Fredette said. "But [security] chased down the kid, I think."

And with that, let me suggest a new idea: Opponents should start running arena security at Fredette, see whether they can similarly corral him. Not sure if it's legal (probably not). But it's still an idea worth exploring because almost nothing else seems to work -- including running one big (Billy White), two bigs (White and Malcolm Thomas) or even three bigs (White, Thomas and Kawhi Leonard) at Fredette the moment he touches the ball.

That's the strategy San Diego State coach Steve Fisher used Saturday.

The result was an 80-67 win for the Cougars.

Fredette got 25 points and -- wait for it -- nine assists.

"When they had to make a basket, someone made a basket," Fisher said. "And it was never the same somebody."

No, it wasn't. Sometimes it was Fredette (4 of 8 from 3-point range), naturally. But other times -- mostly when, and almost always because, San Diego State ran second and third defenders at Fredette -- it was Noah Hartsock (3 of 4 from 3-point range), Charles Abouo (4 of 5), Jackson Emery (2 of 6) or even Stephen Rogers (1 of 1). When the final buzzer sounded, the Cougars had made 14 3-pointers on 24 attempts, won as underdogs in their first game on CBS this season and shocked this sellout crowd of 12,414 featuring students who camped out for days, chanted for hours and, when all else failed, threw objects from the rafters.

Fredette's shots were contested and just as ridiculous as usual; everybody else's shots were wide-open attempts thanks to all the attention Fredette received on almost every possession. At times, it looked like a 3-point contest. Only thing missing was a rack and some money balls.

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"We have guys who can make shots -- especially when they are open," Fredette said. "A lot of times, they are double-teaming me and I was getting them the ball and they were wide open. So they are going to make shots if they are wide open. That was the key."

Or, in SDSU's case, the nail ... at least on this afternoon and in terms of the larger goal of receiving a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament. BYU, on the other hand, is suddenly a serious threat to earn one. The Cougars are 27-2 overall, 13-1 in the Mountain West Conference. They have a top-three RPI, eight wins over top-50 RPI teams and three wins over schools ranked in the latest AP poll. Meantime, fellow top-seed hopeful Duke is 26-3 overall and 12-2 in the ACC with seven wins over top-50 RPI teams and two wins over schools ranked in the latest AP poll, and Kansas is 27-2 overall and 12-2 in the Big 12 with six wins over top-50 RPI teams and two wins over schools ranked in the latest AP poll.

So BYU's body of work is right there, clearly.

Anybody suggesting otherwise is either dumb, stupid or idiotic.

Or all three.

Or just a Jimmer-hater.

"By our RPI, this conference's RPI and our record in the league, we should get some pretty good consideration," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "But we have lots of games to go."

Just two in the regular season, actually, and the Cougars will be heavy favorites in both considering they're each at home against unranked opponents. Wins in those would push BYU to 29-2 overall, 15-1 in the MWC and garner the top seed in the conference tournament -- meaning the Cougars wouldn't have to play San Diego State or tournament host UNLV until the championship game, meaning the Cougars will almost certainly have 31 or 32 wins on Selection Sunday and still be in possession of that top-three RPI.

In other words, things are setting up nicely for Jimmer-mania to last deep into March.

Yes, Saturday's win was just BYU's first of this season on CBS.

But it could turn out to be the first of many.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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