All about the non-Big Six: No. 1 question
One of the first topics of discussion that arose following BYU’s 80-67 victory at San Diego State Saturday was whether the Cougars had positioned themselves for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
I don’t think it matters.
Prestigious as it may be, a No. 1 seed isn’t nearly as important to BYU as being slotted for the West Regional in Anaheim. Whether the Cougars are the final No. 1 seed or the first No. 2 seed, Saturday’s win all but assured Jimmer Fredette and Co. a trip to California for the second weekend of the tournament.
Assuming, of course, they advance that far.
Anaheim is about a nine-hour drive from Provo, Utah. Still, the 640-mile trip is much more convenient than a trek to San Antonio, New Orleans or New Jersey – the locations of the other three regionals. If BYU would’ve lost Sunday, San Diego State would’ve been placed in the Anaheim regional ahead of the Cougars.
Instead, BYU can count on receiving a high level of fan support that could make a difference as it attempts to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history. The Cougars haven’t made the Sweet 16 since 1981.
RANKINGS (Last week’s rank in parenthesis.)
2. San Diego State (27-2, 12-2) – The Aztecs only win against BYU the last three seasons was in the MWC tournament semifinals two years ago. (2)
3. Xavier (21-6, 12-1) – The Musketeers are vying for their fifth straight Atlantic 10 title. (3)
5. Gonzaga (21-9, 11-3) – Steven Gray averages 14.5 points and 3.9 assists (NR)
7. Butler (21-9, 13-5) – The Bulldogs ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak. (7)
8. Alabama-Birmingham (20-7, 10-4) – The Blazers are alone atop the Conference USA standings. (8)
9. George Mason (25-5, 16-2) – The Patriots haven’t lost since Jan. 8. (10)
10. St. Mary’s (23-7, 11-3) – A victory over Portland snapped a three-game losing streak. (6)
BYU’s supporting cast – Jimmer Fredette scored 25 points, but he wasn’t the only reason the Cougars won at San Diego State on Saturday. Charles Abouo had 18 points, Noah Hartsock scored 15 and Jackson Emery added 13 for the Cougars, who made 14-of-23 shots from beyond the arc.
Centenary – The Gentlemen defeated Western Illinois 73-60 Thursday in a victory that halted the nation’s longest losing streak at 33 games. Centenary was one loss away from tying the Division I record losing streak, set by Sacramento State from 1997-99.
Gonzaga – The Zags clinched a share of their 11th-straight West Coast Conference title by defeating San Diego 68-31 on Saturday. The victory came just 48 hours after Mark Few’s squad defeated St. Mary’s in overtime in Moraga. Gonzaga lost to St. Mary’s in Spokane earlier this season and will share the title with the Gaels. St. Mary’s will have the No. 1 seed in the West Coast Conference tournament. Back to Gonzaga … only UCLA has captured more consecutive conference titles than the Zags, as the Bruins won 13 straight Pac-8 or Pac-10 crowns from 1967-79.
Memphis – The Tigers’ NCAA tournament hopes took a serious hit when they were embarrassed 74-47 at UTEP Saturday afternoon. Memphis still touts a decent resume, but a loss in either of its remaining regular-season games against East Carolina (on the road) or Tulane could force Josh Pastner’s squad to the outside of the bubble.
Colorado State – The Rams entered the weekend with a decent shot to make the NCAA tournament. But Saturday’s loss at Air Force – by 20 points, no less – all but squelched Colorado State’s hopes, especially considering it still has a road game at San Diego State.
Brad Stevens – The Butler coach left Hinkle Fieldhouse late in the first half of Saturday’s victory over Loyola after complaining of pain in his eye and blurred vision. Stevens was later diagnosed with a corneal edema. His condition was expected to improve over the next 24 hours. Assistant coach Matt Graves took over for Stevens in the 63-56 win.
THREE TO WATCH
Xavier at Dayton, Sunday – The Musketeers will by vying for their season-tying best seventh straight victory.
New Mexico at BYU, Wednesday – The Lobos are one of two teams to defeat the Cougars.