The Lede. It’s really been a great week of college hoops, and tonight’s slate was no different. We were thrilled and bedazzled with another 40-point performance from the modern-day JJ/Chris Jackson/Steph Curry, depending on whom you ask; a Big East team that seems to have nine lives this season finding another one hanging around at the top of the backboard; and, an emotional evening in Oklahoma centering on a tragedy from a decade ago that people in that area still feel heavily in their hearts.
Your Watercooler Moment. Jimmer Carries BYU to Knock SDSU From Unbeatens. It wasn’t the prettiest game you’ll watch all season, but for many folks around the country it was their first chance to get a nationally-televised look at the one they call The Jimmer. And he didn’t disappoint, especially in a scorching first half of action where you may have wondered if he was ever going to miss a jimmer, er, jumper (20 points on 8-12 shooting including 3-3 from behind the arc). He ended the game with another ridiculous night — 43/4 on 14-24 shooting — in scoring over 60% of his team’s points and generally setting the crowd of 22,000+ at the Marriott Center and the millions more watching at home into apoplexy every time he appeared to face up to the rim for a look at the basket. With Kemba Walker in the east, Jared Sullinger in the midwest, and Jimmer Fredette in the west, the national college basketball landscape this season has a trio of NPOY candidates with completely different skill sets who add incredible value to their teams. It’s going to be a wild six weeks to finish out the season and determine who will take the award, but Fredette proved again tonight that despite playing in relative obscurity beyond the lights of a major conference and regular TV appearances, he deserves every bit as much attention as the other guys.
As for the game itself, San Diego State played well considering that the only real production Steve Fisher’s team had tonight was from a sick Kawhi Leonard (22/15). And we mean sick as in illness rather than our typical usage of that word. His frontcourt mates Malcolm Thomas and Billy White struggled shooting the ball (combined 7-20 FG) and the Aztecs’ lack of three-point bombers other than DJ Gay (who was cold as Utah snow tonight, 0-7 FG) really hurt them. Of course, nobody truly expected SDSU to run the regular season table undefeated, but from a long-term perspective, the Aztecs are not going to be able to beat three or even four good teams in the NCAA Tournament on neutral floors if they can’t find a way to regularly make some outside jumpers. They’re at 33% on the season out there, and they were even worse at 5-20 from beyond the arc tonight. Is it a fatal flaw? Yes, in the sense that when they play a really good team that can match their interior play, they’ll be forced to make some Js — when that doesn’t happen (we’re thinking back to the 2009 Oklahoma team with Blake Griffin), it’s lights out. Still, with the right matchups, SDSU can make a run to the Elite Eight — they’ll just need to play the right teams along the way.
Tonight’s Quick Hits…
- Just Go Ahead and Order It. You know you want to have one in your closet if or when Jimmer and BYU make a run in March just so you can wear it around and tell all your friends you’ve had it for “years.”