The Other 26: Week 15

Posted by KDoyle on February 26th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.


And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!

While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.

At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.

The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.

The Other 26 Rankings

Tidbits from the Rankings

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Checking in on… the SoCon

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 23rd, 2011

Clark Williams is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference

[Ed. Note – the following piece was written in advance of Saturday’s action.]

A Look Back

As the weather warms, so too does the race for the SoCon conference championship. Andrew Goudelock and the Cougars of College of Charleston still remain the favorite, but four teams are within three games of the Cougars, and with two weeks left, nothing is certain. UNC-Greensboro is continuing its rise out of the cellar, and has boosted their conference win total to five. This wouldn’t be noteworthy, however, if the Spartans hadn’t taken two months to win their first game. While the Spartans are enjoying their rise to mediocrity, Georgia Southern is still waiting for the first conference win.  Standing at 4-24 for the season, only one of the Eagles’ season victories have come against a Division-1 opponent, and it took overtime to decide the outcome. The hottest team in the SoCon right now is the Catamounts of Western Carolina, who have won five straight, and continue to shoot up the standings, led by senior guard Mike Williams.

Power Rankings

1. College of Charleston (20-7, 13-2)- The Cougars have held this spot for about a month now, thanks in large part to their fantastic duo, Andrew Goudelock and Jasper Simmons. I fully expect the Cougars to be the #1 seed in the SoCon Tournament.

A Look Ahead: The Cougars play in the annual ESPN Brackerbusters game against Vermont, and then will host Samford. They finish the season with road games against Appalachian State and Western Carolina.

2. Furman (19-7, 11-4)- The Paladins continue to look up to the Cougars, and down on everybody else. That being said, the Paladins have proved that when do-it-all forward Amu Sakku plays well, they’re one of the toughest teams to beat in the conference.

A Look Ahead: The Paladins travel to Samford and Chattanooga, and will finish the regular season at home against Wofford, in a game that will potentially determine the #2 seed in the SoCon Tournament.

3. Western Carolina (14-13, 10-5)- As mentioned earlier, the Catamounts are the hottest team in the SoCon these days. Mike Williams continues to score (14.9 Points Per Game) and dish out the assists (3.8 per game).

A Look Ahead: Western Carolina will participate in the Bracketbuster games, against Eastern Kentucky. Then the Catamounts will travel to UNC-Greensboro. After that, the Catamounts will finish their season with home games against The Citadel and College of Charleston.

4. Wofford (15-12, 12-4)- The Terriers continue to tread water. They beat all the teams they are supposed to, but when big matchups against teams like College of Charleston and Furman, they Terriers falter. That being said, if the Terriers can win out, they’re looking at being the #2 seed in the conference tournament.

A Look Ahead: The Terriers will participate in the Bracketbuster games, squaring off against Ball State. They finish the regular season with road games against Chattanooga and Furman.

5Chattanooga (14-14, 10-5): If Western Carolina is the hottest team in the league, then the Mocs of Chattanooga are the coldest. Losers of their last four, the Mocs need Omar Wattad to get his scoring touch back; the junior forward has scored just fourteen points combined in his last two conference games.

A Look Ahead: The Mocs host Furman and Wofford, and then finish the season at Samford.

6. Davidson (14-13, 8-8): After four consecutive losses in late January, the Wildcats rattled off five wins in a row, and have won six of their last seven. Davidson has put up impressive rebounding numbers as well; they rank 90 in the nation in rebounds per game.

A Look Ahead: The Wildcats travel to Presbateryian College, then finish the season at home, against Elon and UNC-Greensboro.

7. Appalachian State (12-14, 8-8): The Mountaineers continue to be plagued by their low number of assists per game, 10.5, which ranks 321st in the nation. Donald Sims continues to carry the offensive load, with 21.2 points per game, with healthy contributions from Omar Carter, averaging 16.5 points per game.

A Look Ahead: Appalachian State will participate in Bracketbusters, squaring off against High Point. After that, it’s home games against College of Charleston and The Citadel.

8. UNC-Greensboro (5-20, 5-9): Ok, ok, the Spartans might not deserve this spot, but I’ll give it to them anyway, due to their impressive turnaround. The key to the Spartans recent success? Scoring. Preposterous, I know. The Spartans have score over 85 points in their last three wins.

A Look Ahead: The Spartans travel to Elon, then host Western Carolina. After that, it’s road games against Georgia Southern and Davidson. As crazy as it sounds, the once-winless Spartans have a chance to finish .500 in conference play.

9Elon (11-15, 5-10): Elon finally broke their five-game losing streak with their recent victory over The Citadel. Once considered a dark-horse contender for the conference title, the wheels have seemingly fallen of for the Phoenix.

A Look Ahead: Elon hosts UNC-Greensboro, and finish the season with road matches against Davidson and Georgia Southern.

10Samford (12-15, 4-11): The Bulldogs rank in the 300’s in both rebounding and scoring. Honestly, with those numbers, I’m surprised they have won twelve games all season.

A Look Ahead: Samford hosts Furman, then will travel to College of Charleston, and will finish the regular season with a home game against Chattanooga.

11. The Citadel (9-19, 5-10): Losers of their last six, the Bulldogs continue to freefall down the standings. Senior guard Cameron Wells continues to play stellar basketball, but isn’t getting much help from his teammates.

A Look Ahead: The Bulldogs finish the season with three consecutive road games, at Georgia Southern, Western Carolina, and Appalachian State.

12. Georgia Southern (4-24, 0-15): If nothing else, the Eagles are consistent. They have been ranked in the 12th spot just as long as College of Charleston has been ranked in the top spot. They continue to search for that elusive first conference win.

A Look Ahead: Georgia Southern will finish the season with three consecutive home games, against The Citadel, UNC-Greensboro, and Elon.

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The Other 26: Week 14

Posted by KDoyle on February 18th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor


If you are a true fan of Mid-Major basketball, then this is the weekend for you. Many fans who find a whole lot of joy in watching teams from the smaller conferences compete, share the common gripe that there is not nearly enough coverage of these teams. Well, at no other point during the season will you see ESPN dedicate an entire Saturday of basketball almost exclusively to the best Mid-Major teams around the nation.

Playing against the same faces within a team’s conference can become monotonous, but the BracketBuster weekend enables 114 teams around the country a brief recess before the final stretch of the regular season and tournament time to play an opponent they would otherwise never play. Although many of these games will have little meaning in the grand scheme of things, there are a select few that have serious implications as several Mid-Major teams partaking in the BracketBuster weekend sit squarely on the bubble.

Brace yourself for a great day of college hoops on Saturday. With so many of the top Mid-Major teams in the country playing—George Mason, Utah State, St. Mary’s, Cleveland State, Old Dominion, Missouri State, and Wichita State—you can bet that at least one of these teams, if not more, will be wearing Cinderella’s slipper come March.

The Other 26 Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 13

Posted by KDoyle on February 11th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.


In last week’s article I touched on the notion of parity and how great it is within the world of sports. After analyzing many of the Other 26 conferences this week, I could not help but notice how in several of the conference there is not one team that has distinguished themselves from the pack yet, and we are already nearing mid-February. In some cases, there are not even two or three teams that are running away with the league. Competitiveness or mediocrity? Well, does it really matter? All this means is that conference tournament week becomes that much more unpredictable and exciting. Here are a few of the conferences that are still completely wide open:

  • Atlantic 10: Four teams—Xavier, Duquesne, Temple, and Richmond—have records between 8-2 and 8-1.
  • CAA: Four teams—George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth, Old Dominion, and Hofstra—have records between 12-2 and 10-4.
  • The A10 and CAA are both very similar as each have four teams in legitimate contention, and both appear to be two-bid leagues at the moment.
  • Conference USA: Six teams—UTEP, Southern Mississippi, UAB, Memphis, SMU, and Tulsa—have records between 6-2 and 7-3.
  • Horizon League: Five teams—Valparaiso, Cleveland State, Wright State, Butler, and Wisconsin Milwaukee—have records between 10-3 and 9-5.
  • MAC: Eight teams—Kent State, Buffalo, Miami (OH), Bowling Green, Akron, Ohio, Ball State, and Western Michigan—have records between 7-2 and 5-4.
  • Southern Conference: Four teams—Charleston, Furman, Wofford, and Chattanooga—have records between 11-2 and 10-3.
  • Southland Conference: Nine teams—Northwestern State, McNeese State, Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State, Texas State, Stephen F. Austin, Sam Houston State, UTSA, and Texas Arlington—have records between 7-3 and 5-4.

Very elaborate, I know. But, it is pretty remarkable the balance in the leagues. Of these seven conferences, there are a total of 40 teams who can still say they are capable and have a legit shot at winning their conference. What does this all mean? A great week of basketball during the conference tournaments, followed by more weeks of deliciousness during the NCAA Tournament. Enjoy.

The Other 26 Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 12

Posted by KDoyle on February 4th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor


Parity is a great thing in sports. Not many enjoy watching a league where one team consistently dominates the competition and all the others are simply happy to compete with the top team. In the West Coast Conference this was the case for years. Gonzaga would roll right on through league play, win the conference championship, and then head onto the NCAA Tournament. Sure the ‘Zags would be upset on occasions, but those occasions were few and far between. This year, that is hardly the case in the WCC. St. Mary’s is the current leader, but there are a few other teams that are capable of knocking off the Gaels—Portland already has. The WCC is not the only conference where there is parity. How about the wacky Conference USA? It seems that every team in that conference has a shot to win it. The Atlantic 10 and CAA both have a couple teams at the top, but there are several others right below them that are just waiting for the right time to pounce on the top dogs. The MAC is the perfect instance of parity this year. You may call it mediocrity, but you cannot say that 11 teams with records ranging from 3-5 to 6-2 is not parity.

One can argue that parity is essentially synonymous with hope. Fans of every team that is right in the thick of things within their conference have legitimate hope that their guys will pull through and be the last one standing come the conclusion of their conference tournament.


The Other 26 Rankings

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The 10 BracketBuster Games You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted by KDoyle on February 1st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.  His weekly column, The Other 26, explores the minutiae of the twenty-six Division I conferences outside the BCS sextet. 

One of the best weekends of the year prior to Championship Week and, of course, the NCAA Tournament, is when the BracketBusters are played. It provides a nice break from conference play, and some of the top mid-major teams in the country have an opportunity to strut their stuff, build up that all-important resume, and have a last opportunity of picking up a quality non-conference victory. Because many of the top games are televised, it is also a great chance for all you guys out there that solely pay attention to the BCS teams around the country to gain some insight of who may have a shot at upsetting a higher seed and advancing a round or two when filling out your Tournament bracket next month. Here are my top 10 BracketBuster game, from tenth to first:

10.   Kent State at Drexel—February 18, 9PM (ESPNU)

Neither team is in the running for an at-large bid, but obtaining additional confidence heading into their respective conference tournaments is what both will play for. Drexel is just a step below the top teams in the CAA, while Kent State is right in the mix for the MAC crown as there has not been one team that has truly distinguished themselves. The Flashes, led by Justin Greene’s 16 points and 7.5 boards a night, are one of the more balanced teams in the MAC as five players average nine points or more. Chris Fouch, arguably Drexel’s top player, will really test Kent State’s backcourt.

9.   Austin Peay at Fairfield—February 19, 1PM (ESPNU)

Fairfield has been flying under the radar playing in the MAAC this year—not as much attention has been given to the league due to Siena’s return to mediocrity after a great run under Fran McCaffery—and they are one of the hottest teams in the nation. Aside from a tough one point loss at Loyola (MD) in mid-January, Fairfield has not lost since November 23 against St. Joseph’s. They are currently the favorite to win the MAAC, but there are a host of teams nipping at their heels. The Stags will take on an Austin Peay squad that sits atop their league—the Ohio Valley Conference—as well. The game will feature two of the better point guards in the land of mid-majors as Derek Needham for Fairfield averages 14 points and 5 assists, and Caleb Brown for Austin Peay is second in the OVC in assists.

8.   Hofstra at Wright State—February 19, 11AM (ESPNU)

Hofstra and Wright State are both teetering on the edge of becoming legitimate contenders in their respective leagues. The Pride got out to a quick 5-0 start in the CAA, but have gone 3-3 in their last six to fall behind Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason. In the crazy Horizon League this year, it is anyone’s best guess who will be the last one standing. Cleveland State with Norris Cole looks to be the current favorite, but Wright State is not far behind. The storyline for this game will undoubtedly revolve around Charles Jenkins who has a legitimate shot of hearing his name called by David Stern on NBA Draft night, but don’t be surprised if Vaughn Duggins for Wright State steals the show. The fifth-year senior has scored in double figures in every game save two, and is the fourth leading scorer in the Horizon League.

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The Week That Was: Jan. 25-Jan. 31

Posted by jstevrtc on February 1st, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor 


It’s Feb. 1. That means there’s only 40 days left until Selection Sunday, or 40 days left for teams to build up their resume so their bubble doesn’t pop. We’re sure there are going to be a lot of heated discussions about teams hovering within that last four in-last four out zone over the next six weeks. Heck, here at TWTW, we’ll probably change our opinion on certain squads three  or four times until the end of the regular season. It should be a crazy six weeks, but we know it’s going to be fun.  

What We learned

After a weekend that saw 13 ranked teams lose (and the entire top 25 go 22-20 for the week, as Seth Davis pointed out on the chic thing to do is talk about the gigantic bulging central part of the bell curve that symbolizes this college basketball season. It’s nearly impossible to make sense of who’s good and who’s bad on a weekly basis, as a team is liable to have a monumental win one night and then lose to a lesser school a few days later. Let’s use Georgetown as an example. Just over two weeks ago the Hoyas were a mess at 1-4 in the Big East and losers of four of their previous five games. Now, they’ve won five in a row, including recent triumphs at Villanova and at home against Louisville. Georgetown isn’t the only school that enjoys playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Check out this paragraph from Davis’ Monday column

“Texas can lose at USC and then win at Kansas. Tennessee, which should be this movie’s poster child, can win at Villanova and Pitt (at the Consol Energy Center) and lose to College of Charleston and Charlotte. Louisville loses at home to Drexel but beats UConn on the road. Providence loses to LaSalle but beats Louisville and Villanova. Auburn loses to Samford, Campbell and Presbyterian, but it beats Florida State, which later beats Duke. What, you didn’t know Presbyterian was better than Duke? And on Sunday, St. John’s (which lost to Fordham) blew out Duke.” 

Given all this uncertainty, can anyone honestly say with any assurance that there’s a clear-cut elite set of teams? Ohio State might be undefeated, but the Buckeyes have had their fair share of nail biters over ho-hum teams (Michigan, Penn State, and most recently, Northwestern). TWTW would like to put its eggs into Texas’ basket. The Longhorns are this week’s Team du Jour, having torched four ranked teams in the last 13 days, but you wouldn’t be shocked if Texas didn’t have a hiccup or two to an unranked team before the season’s end, would you?

This Tristan Thompson-Nathan Walkup Encounter Accurately Summarizes Texas' Throttling of the Aggies Last Night (B. Sullivan/Dallas Morning News)

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Checking in on… the SoCon

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2011

Clark Williams is the RTC correspondent for the Southern Conference.

A Look Back

Greetings, fellow SoCon hoops lovers. Let’s jump right into it. All season long, UNC-Greensboro has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Not only had they lost every game, but they were getting run off the court. Nothing was working for them. Two weeks ago, they were at the bottom of my power rankings, and were receiving national media attention for being one of the two remaining zero-win teams in DI hoops. Since then, they have won three out of their last four, with their lone loss coming against first place Chattanooga in double-overtime. Needless to say, I’m excited to see how the rest of their season plays out. College of Charleston is still rolling, especially as Andrew Goudelock continues his offensive domination, averaging 23.6 points per game. Also, Jeremy Simmons’ contributions shall not be overlooked; Jeremy is averaging 13.7 points and pulling 6.4 rebounds per game. Georgia Southern has replaced UNC-Greensboro as the conference bottom-dweller. The Eagles have yet to win a conference game, and things aren’t looking good. The silver lining is freshman guard Eric Ferguson, who is wasting no time becoming comfortable in the college basketball world. He is averaging 13.7 points per game, 5.8 rebounds per game, and almost two steals per game.

Power Rankings

1. College of Charleston (15-7, 8-2)- The Cougars continue to be the SoCon team to beat. Their first conference loss came at the hands of Chattanooga, in a 91-88 thriller. Saturday’s slip-up against lowly Davidson is an unsightly blemish, but the Cougars should be fine as Andrew Goudelock continues to look like the SoCon POY.

A Look Ahead- The Cougars are in Charleston for home games against Wofford and Furman, two games that won’t disappoint.

2. Wofford (12-10, 9-2)- Winners of six of their last seven, the Terriers seem to have finally pieced it together, thanks in large part to Noah Dahlman, who is averaging 20 points per game.

A Look Ahead- The Terriers travel to College of Charleston (a SoCon must-watch) and The Citadel.

3. Furman (16-6, 8-3)- The Paladins’ offense was seemingly coming together quite nicely until they squared off against Western Carolina, and managed only 16 points in the first half of their loss. Amu Saaka continues to fill out the stat sheet, averaging 16.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

A Look Ahead- Furman takes to the road for showdowns against The Citadel and College of Charleston, the latter of which will be a crucial conference clash.

4. Chattanooga (12-10, 9-2)- Chattanooga, at times, has looked like the most talented team in the SoCon. Just ask College of Charleston. Other times, however, their play has left us all scratching our heads, like last week’s 88-56 loss to Wofford, or their 85-59 loss at Furman. If the Mocs are for real, they need to prove they can hang with fellow conference leaders.

A Look Ahead- The Mocs host Georgia Southern in a big showdown Thursday, especially with a four-game road trip coming up.

5. Western Carolina (9-12, 5-4)- It looked like the Catamounts’ rollercoaster season had taken another turn for the worse when they lost big to The Citadel and College of Charleston. Then, they got a much-needed victory over Furman, and are back in the conference race. Sometimes, all it takes is one big victory. Freshman guard Trey Sumler continues to look more and more comfortable out on the court.

A Look Ahead- Western Carolina will travel to Wofford and Elon, then host UNC-Greensboro, Chattanooga and Samford in a three-game homestretch.

6. The Citadel– (9-13, 5-5)- While the Bulldogs are on a roll, winners of their last four games, it might be too little, too late. The Bulldogs started 2011 with five consecutive losses. If they want to stay in contention for the conference title, they need this winning string to extend.

A Look Ahead- The Citadel will host Furman and Wofford, and then will travel to face the resurgent Spartans of UNC-Greensboro.

7. Elon (10-12, 4-7)- The Phoenix are having no trouble scoring, averaging 75 points per game, thanks in large part to the guard play of Chris Long and Drew Spradlin. Defense was the culprit in Saturday’s 85-76 loss at Chattanooga.

A Look Ahead- Elon hosts Western Carolina, Appalachian State, and College of Charleston after having played five of seven on the road.

8. Appalachian State (8-13, 4-7)- Once considered a likely candidate for the conference crown, Appalachian State has fallen hard, losing six of their last seven. On the bright side, Donald Sims continues to impress at 21 points per game. If there is one player who can challenge Andrew Goudelock for SoCon Player of the Year, it’s him.

A Look Ahead- Things won’t get any easier for the Mountaineers, as they play a pair away from home against UNC-Greensboro, and Elon.

9. UNC-Greensboro (4-16, 4-6)- Break up the Spartans! Ok, ok, they probably don’t deserve to be ranked this high, but I couldn’t resist. In earlier posts, I touted UNC-Greensboro as arguably the worst team in college hoops, so consider this my crow-filled meal. What is the method to UNC-Greensboro’s recent success, you ask? Scoring. Crazy, I know. In winning four of five, the Spartans scored over 70 points for the first time since November 14.

A Look Ahead- The Spartans will host Appalachian State and then hit the road again, traveling to Western Carolina.

10. Samford (11-11, 3-7)- The Bulldogs rank 317th nationally in points per game, and 343rd in rebounds per game. With these numbers, it’s rather impressive they’ve won 11 games already. Jeffrey Merritt is the only player averaging more than ten points per game.

A Look Ahead- The Bulldogs will host Davidson, then hit a three-game road trip, traveling to Georgia Southern, Appalachian State, and Western Carolina.

11. Davidson (9-12, 3-7)- At the end of 2010, Davidson had a winning record, and only one conference loss. Since the new-year has begun, the Wildcats are 1-8, their lone win coming against Furman.

A Look Ahead- Davidson will pay a visit to Georgia Southern for a battle of the conference bottom-dwellers.

12. Georgia Southern (4-18, 0-9)- Thanks to UNC-Greensboro’s “turnaround,” we have a new #12. Georgia Southern’s pitiful rebounding, which ranks 314th in the nation, continues to be their downfall, as they have yet to win a conference game. Eric Ferguson, however, is wasting no time with his transition into college basketball. The freshman is averaging almost 30 minutes per game, and dropping 13.7 points per game.

A Look Ahead- Davidson, Chattanooga, and Samford are next on tap for GSU.

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The Other 26: Week 11

Posted by KDoyle on January 28th, 2011


We are just about halfway through the conference schedules and the true contenders are beginning to reveal themselves, while the pretenders are wallowing away after deceiving the country for so many weeks. Take a team like Central Florida, for instance. They looked like a legitimate top 25 team and a definite candidate for an at-large berth after breezing through the non-conference with an unblemished record, but their 1-5 record in Conference USA makes that great run in the non-conference all for naught. Conversely, take a gander at Duquesne. The Dukes went a modest 8-5 in the non-conference with losses to Robert Morris and George Mason, but have gone onto take the Atlantic 10 by storm. Suffice to say, it is hard to gauge just how good some teams are based solely on the non-conference. Some coaches will elect to challenge their team by scheduling a tough OOC schedule, while others will stockpile a bunch of cupcakes to pick up easy wins. The distinction between the pretenders and contenders will continue to be illuminated all the way up until the conference tournaments. Up until then, we sit and watch teams rise above expectations heading into conference play and watch others flounder.

The Other 26 Rankings

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The Other 26: Week 10

Posted by KDoyle on January 21st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.


The week is here, long at last. Going into the season, BYU and San Diego State were projected to be strong, but this strong? Just to give you an idea of where these two juggernauts stood before the season, the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll had San Diego State receiving 73 votes and BYU 55 votes in the top 25 poll. In Zach Hayes’ Bracketology—a bracket that, in my mind, is very accurate for his latest edition—he had SDSU as a six seed and BYU a seven. Clearly, each team has exceeded many of the critics and so called experts expectations. Who would have thought that the teams would combine to have a 38-1 record at this stage of the season? Not even Steve Fisher or Dave Rose would have thought that.

In the grand scheme of things, the tilt in Provo, Utah, next week will not have an impact on whether or not either team will make the NCAA Tournament—it is a foregone conclusion that both are in—but this may be San Diego State’s biggest roadblock between them having an undefeated regular season or not. Can the magic carpet ride that San Diego State has been flying on continue, or will Jimmer Fredette and Co. take the air right out from under them? It will all go down on Wednesday evening in Provo.

The Other 26 Rankings

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