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February 21, 2011
Weekly Watch: Mountain West rematch
A wild week in college basketball ended with each of the top four teams in the polls losing in a span of six days.
This week brings a rematch of the giants of the Mountain West. Although BYU and San Diego State were top-10 teams at the time of their first meeting on Jan. 26, they still felt like outsiders looking in for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. But with few teams separating themselves nationally, a one-loss San Diego State team would be a legit contender for a top seed. The same could be said for BYU, especially if it sweeps the Aztecs.
The stakes were high when the teams met last month, and they're even higher this time around.
Here's a look at that and the other top matchups for the week. All times Eastern.
Game of the week: BYU at San Diego State, Saturday, 2 p.m., CBS. BYU's 71-58 victory over San Diego State in Provo is the Aztecs' only loss. Meanwhile, the Cougars had a bit of a letdown, losing at New Mexico in their next game. Expect the rematch to be even more intense. First, San Diego State is playing for a shot at a No. 1 seed. If BYU wins, the Cougars would be able to state a case for a No. 1 seed. Aztecs F Kawhi Leonard, an NBA prospect, was ill for the first game but still managed 22 points and 15 rebounds. BYU G Jimmer Fredette had one of his best games of the season against San Diego State with 43 points. He's averaged 22.3 points per game in the six games since then. That's good, but he averaged 28.6 points through the first 21 games.
Don't overlook this one: Missouri at Kansas State, Saturday, noon, ESPN. Missouri has won only two true road games this season, and the Tigers shouldn't brag too much about either -- the wins came over Oregon and Iowa State. Missouri looks good for an NCAA bid, but how far can a team go if it can't win big games away from home. Kansas State solidified its NCAA resume by routing Kansas last week and could erase more doubt with wins this week over Nebraska on the road on Wednesday and Missouri at home.
Mid-major to watch: Make sure to watch Saint Mary's play host to Gonzaga on Thursday at 11 p.m. on ESPN2. Suddenly, Saint Mary's looks vulnerable and Gonzaga's streak of 10 consecutive regular-season West Coast Conference titles now looks as if it could stretch to 11. Last week, Saint Mary's was shocked by lowly San Diego, then fell at home to Utah State on Saturday in a game in which the Aggies controlled the second half. Gonzaga would move into a tie for the WCC lead if it can defeat Saint Mary's, which won the first matchup 73-71 in Spokane. Other games of interest include UTEP playing host to Memphis (Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN2) in a game in which the Miners can take control of the Conference USA, and Morehead State visiting Murray State (Thursday, 9 p.m., ESPNU) in a game that likely will determine the Ohio Valley regular-season title. Morehead won the first meeting.
Coaching matchup of the week: Michigan State's Tom Izzo vs. Minnesota's Tubby Smith (Tuesday, 9 p.m., Big Ten Network). Two coaches with national championships are guiding teams that this season are far from NCAA locks. Izzo is 13-3 against Smith, including 9-1 since Smith took over a Minnesota. Izzo and Michigan State twice defeated Smith's Kentucky teams (1999 and 2005) in NCAA tourney regional finals.
Injury update: Pittsburgh senior G Ashton Gibbs returned from a knee sprain to score a career-high 26 points in the loss to St. John's. ... Florida F Chandler Parsons did not play Sunday against LSU after sustaining a deep thigh bruise in the previous game against Tennessee. He also could miss Thursday's home game against Georgia; the Gators are at Kentucky on Saturday. ... Coastal Carolina starting PG Kierre Greenwood will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. It's the latest setback for the Big South leaders, who lost leading scorer Desmond Holloway to an undisclosed eligibility issue and F Mike Holmes, a transfer from South Carolina, to a dismissal.
Key stat: Morehead State senior F/C Kenneth Faried set the modern NCAA career record for rebounds Saturday with 1,576. The NCAA's modern era started in 1973. Faried has no shot at the all-time record; that belongs to La Salle's Tom Gola, who had 2,201 rebounds when he finished in 1955. Faried still needs 100 rebounds to set the Morehead State record, currently held by Steve Hamilton. If Faried passes Hamilton, he will have sole possession of 10th place all time in NCAA history.
Tournament implications: How many NCAA tournament bids will the Big East receive? St. John's made the move from "probably in the field" to "certainly in the field" after defeating Pitt on Saturday. The Red Storm suddenly are fighting for a top-four seed in the Big East tournament, which would mean a double bye. Nine teams is a conservative estimate for the league, and the league could send as many as 11 teams. This week is a key week in the league. Cincinnati goes to Georgetown (Wednesday, 9 p.m., Big East syndication) and plays host to Connecticut (Sunday, noon, ESPNU). Marquette visits Connecticut on Thursday (Thursday, 7 p.m., ESPN2).
David Fox is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.