After getting the best two seeds in Mountain West history San Diego State and BYU kept the momentum going with second rounds wins. For the Aztecs the 68-50 victory over Northern Colorado finally got the monkey off their back as they notched the first tournament win in school history. A couple high seeds like Louisville and Vanderbilt were knocked off but San Diego State kept avoided the opening round upset.
The first half was pretty ugly for San Diego State and Northern Colorado with SDSU having the edge 30-24. Steve Fisher got his team relaxed in the locker room and after that it was all Aztecs for the last 14 minutes. There was a big mismatch in the paint that the Aztecs exploited heavily. Kawhi Leonard and Billy White put double doubles and SDSU lead in total rebounds 45-33. The offense was great handling the ball and had only four turnovers in the game. The only Northern Colorado stuck around so long was due to Devon Beitzel putting up a game high 25 points and hitting six treys.
BYU was able to outlast the pesky Wofford Terriers 74-66. Luckily there was enough left in the tank of Jimmer Fredette to put 32 points and advance. At halftime the Cougars held a 33-29 lead and at Wofford actually led 25-22 with 4:32 remaining. The second half went much smoother as BYU built a a nice cushion and led the rest of the way. Logan Magnusson stepped with the biggest game of his career with a 10 point and seven rebound effort. The senior forward had been a seldom used backup the last two years but with the absence of Brandon Davies the Cougars needed someone step up inside.
Charles Abuo and Noah Hartstock were the only other Cougars to reach double figures. Statistically the game was incredibly close and BYU essentially won by taking more shots due to less turnovers. Both teams shot 39.3% from the field but BYU had five more attempts. BYU hit six three pointers to four for Wofford and won the turnover battle 10 to 13.
After the jump we'll preview the pairings that will take place on Saturday and judge the chances of both teams advancing.
San Diego State faces a much tougher opponent in #7 seed Temple who knocked off Penn State on a last second shot. The Owls are 26-7 on the year and boast an RPI of 32. This will be a much tougher game for the Aztecs but they do have several advantages they can use. The crowd in Tucson will be heavily in favor of the San Diego State thanks to the short drive and the fact that Philadelphia is far away for Temple fans. SDSU on average scores two more points on offense and gives up four less points on defense. Shooting wise both teams are fairly even and the only big advantage appears to be on offensive boards for San Diego State. Temple actually has some big players inside unlike Northern Colorado. Expect some good battles in the paint on both sides of the ball.
This will be a much closer game but San Diego State should be able to advance to the Sweet 16. If that happens they would face the winner of #6 seed Cincinatti vs #3 seed Connecticut. San Diego State and Temple play on Saturday at 4:10pm MST.
BYU will have try to knock off the annual March Cinderella in #11 seed Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are playing their best basketball of the year right now and just wooped #6 St Johns 86-71. For awhile it seemed like Gonzaga would actually miss the tournament this year but they turn things around a month ago and haven't looked back. Winners of 10 in a row and 12 of 13 this what we've come to expect. Both teams love to run the pace so expect a very high scoring game which will work in BYU's favor. Neither team is afraid to shoot the ball the main difference is that BYU prefers to shoot theirs from behind the three point line or in Jimmer's case 10 feet past the arc.
Steven Gray is the leading scorer for Gonzaga but the bigger threat could be 7 foot 260lb Robert Sacre. Will BYU have any way of stopping this giant inside the paint. This is where Brandon Davies could be sorely missed. With the talent level of Jimmer Fredette he can go on a tear any night and score 50+. If he has a breakout game like he did against New Mexico then BYU should advance, that may not happen if he is closer to his season average of 28. Game time is at 5:05pm MST on Saturday.