LEFT COAST LAYUPS (2/6/2013): BRACKETBUSTERS GIVES ST. MARY’S GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY
By Raphielle Johnson
One big reason why the Ramada BracketBusters event is in its final year of existence is the fact that there are few opportunities for mid-major teams to truly enhance their at-large profiles. What’s meant to be a game in which both teams can possibly benefit turned into an elimination game of sorts, with the loser finding itself in a precarious position with just a couple weeks remaining in the regular season. But for those who get the opportunity to boost their at-large resumes it can be a valuable shot at the statement victory they truly need.
That’s the case for the Saint Mary’s Gaels, who will host No. 16 Creighton (20-3, 9-2 Missouri Valley) on February 23. Safely in the field of 68 at this point in the season, the Bluejays are led by All-America forward Doug McDermott and are one of the best offensive teams in the country. And for a Saint Mary’s team whose best non-conference victory was a comeback win over Harvard on New Year’s Eve, a visit by the Bluejays represents an opportunity they can’t afford to let slip away.
“You’re playing against one of the top mid-major programs, one of the best programs in the country, actually,” Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett said in a statement released by the school. “You’ve got the star power, so to speak, of a guy like McDermott and a guy like [Saint Mary's point guard Matthew] Dellavedova. It’ll be pretty exciting to see two really good teams having good years and a couple pretty special players.”
There will be plenty of talent on the court, but the biggest storyline will be Saint Mary’s strength of schedule. Currently 164 according to warrennolan.com, this is where their 1-2 weekend at the DirecTV Classic in Anaheim (losses to Pacific and Georgia Tech) over Thanksgiving weekend comes into play (however the field, led by champion California, has not performed as well as hoped this season). Add to that the fact that Saint Mary’s will play just its fourth game against a team ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI this week (Santa Clara on Thursday), and games like this one are critical if they’re to grab an at-large bid.
How the Gaels perform against Gonzaga (February 14) and BYU (February 21), both home games, will not only determine Saint Mary’s chances of winning the WCC but also their chances of grabbing an at-large bid. Win both and they’d likely be in decent shape heading into the Creighton game. Lose both, and the BracketBusters contest becomes a “must-win” affair for the home team.
Player of the Week: BYU guard Matt Carlino
While Tyler Haws and Brandon Davies have been the primary weapons for the Cougars this season Carlino’s struggled when it comes to consistency. That wasn’t the case last week, as Carlino averaged 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game in wins over Pepperdine and Santa Clara. In BYU’s 63-61 win at Pepperdine, Carlino’s three-pointer late in regulation gave the Cougars the separation needed to hold on.
Schedule (Thursday – Saturday)
10:00 p.m. BYU at San Diego (BYUtv)
10:00 p.m. Loyola Marymount at Portland (CSN Northwest/CSN Bay Area)
11:00 p.m. Pepperdine at No. 6/6 Gonzaga (ROOT/CSN California)
11:00 p.m. Saint Mary’s at Santa Clara (ESPN2)
4:00 p.m. Pepperdine at Portland (TWCSN/CSN Bay Area)
8:00 p.m. Loyola Marymount at No. 6/6 Gonzaga (ROOT/TWCSN/CSN California)
9:00 p.m. San Francisco at BYU (BYUtv)
11:00 p.m. Saint Mary’s at San Diego (ESPNU)
Player of the Week: Southern Utah guard Damon Heuir
Heuir is one reason why Nick Robinson’s Thunderbirds have surprised folks in conference play, and he continued his solid play in wins over Sacramento State and Northern Arizona. Heuir averaged 27.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game last week, winning Player of the Week honors for the second time this season. Heuir leads the Big Sky in scoring with an average of 16.8 points per game.
Montana draws Davidson in Ramada BracketBusters: The first-place Grizzlies are the lone Big Sky team to draw an assignment for BracketBusters (only the 13 games televised are considered to be a part of the event) and they’ll have to fly across the country for it. Montana will visit Davidson, the preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference. Bob McKillop’s team is led by one of the better front court tandems in the county in De’Mon Brooks and Jake Cohen, with four other players averaging between 7.4 and 9.8 points per game. Davidson, like Montana, reached the NCAA tournament last season and their experience across the board could give the Grizzlies trouble in this environment.
Schedule (Thursday – Monday; all games available on Big Sky TV)
8:35 p.m. Portland State at Northern Arizona
9:05 p.m. Southern Utah at Idaho State
9:05 p.m. North Dakota at Montana State
9:05 p.m. Northern Colorado at Montana
10:05 p.m. Eastern Washington at Sacramento State
3:05 p.m. Eastern Washington at Northern Arizona
9:05 p.m. Southern Utah at Weber State
9:05 p.m. Northern Colorado at Montana State
9:05 p.m. North Dakota at Montana
10:05 p.m. Portland State at Sacramento State
9:05 p.m. Idaho State at Weber State
Player of the Week: Hawai’i forward Christian Standhardinger
Standhardinger averaged 20.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game in wins over UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton last week, scoring 23 points and grabbing ten rebounds in the come-from-behind 72-68 victory at UC Riverside. The Warriors have now won three straight road games, their first such streak in nine years.
49ers, Tigers land Ramada BracketBusters games: Two Big West teams landed BracketBusters games when the selections were announced on Monday, with Long Beach State hosting Stephen F. Austin and Pacific having to visit Western Michigan. Long Beach State will host a team that currently leads the Southland and has an 18-2 overall record, but it’s important to note that while the Lumberjacks did beat Oklahoma earlier this season they also have four wins over non-Division I opponents. SFA limits opponents to 49.5 points per game, and Danny Kaspar’s stingy defense could give the 49ers some trouble if they don’t exercise good shot selection.
As for Pacific, they’ll take on a WMU squad that may be overlooked due to the fact that they’re in the West Division of the MAC (league favorites Akron and Ohio are both in the East) but the Broncos are a tough team in Kalamazoo. Shayne Whittington leads three WMU players in double figures with an average of 12.4 points per game, and this is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to getting to the foul line (8th in free throw rate).
Schedule (Thursday – Saturday; all games available on BigWest.tv unless noted otherwise)
10:00 p.m. UC Davis at UC Santa Barbara
10:00 p.m. UC Irvine at Cal State Northridge
10:00 p.m. Pacific at Cal Poly
12:00 a.m. Long Beach State at Hawai’i
10:00 p.m. UC Davis at Cal Poly
10:00 p.m. Pacific at UC Santa Barbara
10:00 p.m. Long Beach State at Cal State Northridge
11:00 p.m. Cal State Fullerton at UC Riverside (Prime Ticket)
12:00 a.m. UC Irvine at Hawai’i
Player of the Week: Colorado State forward Pierce Hornung
Hornung posted double-doubles in wins over Boise State and Wyoming last week, averaging 17.5 points and 12.0 rebounds per game. In the 77-57 win over Boise State the senior tallied 23 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 8-of-11 from the field.
Back issues continue to nag Aztecs’ Thames: The back troubles that have bothered San Diego State point guard Xavier Thames have had an effect on the Aztecs as a whole, with SDSU going 4-3 since the junior injured his back in early January. And when you add to this the wrist injury that shooting guard Chase Tapley is currently dealing with, you’ve got a team that’s essentially a shell of itself in a league that’s proven to be extremely tough. Tapley shot 1-of-7 from the field in Saturday’s loss at Air Force and Thames was unable to go. When Thames is on the floor and healthy things run smoother for SDSU offensively, and if the back continues to be an issue the Aztecs may slip out of contention in the Mountain West race.
Schedule (Wednesday – Saturday)
9:00 p.m. UNLV at Fresno State (TWCSN)
9:00 p.m. Air Force at No. 15/16 New Mexico (ROOT)
10:00 p.m. Wyoming at Cal State Bakersfield
10:15 p.m. Colorado State at Nevada (CBSSN)
11:00 p.m. Boise State at No. 25 San Diego State (TWCSN)
6:00 p.m. Air Force at Nevada
6:00 p.m. Fresno State at No. 25 San Diego State (CBSSN)
8:00 p.m. Wyoming at Boise State
9:00 p.m. No. 15/16 New Mexico at UNLV (NBCSN)
Player of the Week: Stanford forward Josh Huestis
In wins over Oregon and Oregon State Huestis, one of the conference’s best defenders, averaged 15.0 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. In the win over then-No. 10 Oregon, Huestis finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Ducks struggle without floor general: Speaking of injured point guards, Dana Altman’s Ducks played two games in the Bay Area without the services of freshman point guard Dominic Artis due to an injured foot. In losses at Stanford and California the Ducks averaged 53.0 points and 21.0 turnovers per game, with both numbers being well off of their season averages to date (74.1 ppg, 16.2 turnovers/game). It remains to be seen if Artis can go when the Ducks host Colorado on Thursday night, but it’s rather obvious just how important the freshman is to Oregon offensively.
Schedule (Wednesday – Sunday)
9:00 p.m. Stanford at No. 7/7 Arizona (ESPN News)
10:00 p.m. Utah at Oregon State (P12N)
9:00 p.m. Washington at UCLA (ESPN)
9:30 p.m. California at Arizona State (P12N)
10:00 p.m. Colorado at No. 19/19 Oregon (ESPNU)
11:30 p.m. Washington State at USC (P12N)
7:00 p.m. Stanford at Arizona State (ESPNU)
8:00 p.m. Utah at No. 19/19 Oregon (P12N)
10:00 p.m. Washington State at UCLA (P12N)
7:00 p.m. California at No. 7/7 Arizona (P12N)
9:00 p.m. Colorado at Oregon State (P12N)
10:00 p.m. Washington at USC (FSN)
Player of the Week: New Mexico State forward Bandja Sy
In wins over Texas State and UTSA the senior forward averaged 20.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. In the Aggies’ 86-72 victory at Texas State, Sy tallied 24 points and 13 rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting from the field.
Denver gets lone Ramada BracketBusters slot: The Pioneers were the lone WAC team among the six available to land a spot in the event, and they’ll have their work cut out for them as they’ll visit Northern Iowa. Ben Jacobson’s Panthers may not be on the level of Missouri Valley contenders Creighton and Wichita State but the half-court defense that has become a trademark of their since Jacobson arrived at UNI remains. Anthony James (12.4 ppg) leads four Panthers averaging double figures, and five players average at least 9.6 points per game. But this isn’t a group that’s particularly deep, which should lend itself to this matchup being a half-court affair.
Schedule (Thursday – Saturday)
8:00 p.m. UTSA at Louisiana Tech
8:00 p.m. Texas State at UT Arlington
9:00 p.m. Idaho at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:00 p.m. Seattle at Denver (ROOT)
10:00 p.m. Utah State at San Jose State
6:00 p.m. Idaho at Denver (ROOT)
8:00 p.m. Texas State at Louisiana Tech
8:00 p.m. UTSA at UT Arlington
9:00 p.m. Seattle at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
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