College Hoops Player of the Day for Wednesday, March 2, 2011
Sometimes, a team just has another team's number.
In the case of the New Mexico Lobos, that number is two, the times they've beaten BYU this season, or maybe it's 32, the number of Jimmer Fredette's jersey (he had 33 in the most recent loss), but probably it's 18, the number of points by which they beat the Cougars, in an 82-64 thrashing at BYU Wednesday night.
18 is also double the number by which the Lobos topped the Cougars last time they met, when New Mexico stopped them, 86-77, back on January 29.
Junior guard Phillip McDonald, who had a mere 11 points in their first meeting, set the tone with 26 on Wednesday, hitting 9 of 14 shots from the field, including 5 of 8 from three-point range, making many in the crowd wonder, "Jimmer who?"
The Lobos also took advantage of the absence of BYU's Brandon Davies, as forward Drew Gordon dominated inside, with 15 points and 15 boards. Davies was booted from the team for allegedly engaging in pre-marital sex, a violation of team and school codes which maintain that students remain virtuous and chaste. Like it or not, rules are rules, and Davies broke one.
Missing his presence in the middle, as the Cougars' third-leading scorer and top rebounder, sets up a potentially game-changing scenario in the upcoming Moutain West conference tournament, the winner of which receives and automatic bid to the NCAAs.
With #3 BYU supposedly already in, the door is now open for UNLV (10-5 in conference play) and New Mexico (7-8, but hosting 6-9 Air Force in their final regular season game). Of course, with BYU missing one of their key starters, somebody still has to beat San Diego State, and the only team to have done that this season is BYU, twice.
That team could be the Runnin' Rebels, upon whose home court the tournament will be played. San Deigo State topped them twice this season, but only by six points each time. Maybe the Lobos will rise to the occasion, though they've lost to the Aztecs by 6 and 10 points.
Whatever the case, expect the Mountain West to send three teams - BYU, San Diego State, and somebody else - and maybe even four, onward to March Madness.
NOTABLE: BIG EAST not so easy... Connecticut, after surprising many early in the season, is clearly on the tournament bubble now, having lost convincingly at West Virginia Wednesday night, 65-56. The Huskies have dropped three of their last four and finish up their regular season at home against Notre Dame on Saturday.
Tied at 9-8 with Marquette and Villanova, the Huskies, if they lose to the red-hot Fighting Irish will need a couple of wins in the Big East tournament to garner enough consideration by the selection committee to advance to the NCAAs. All three of the 9-8 teams are ensured to finish at least at .500, though Villanova is also on the ropes, having to play on Saturday to close out their regular season at Pitt. The Wildcats have lost three straight and five of their last seven.
Marquette appears to be the lucky dog of the bunch, finishing up at Seton Hall, also on Saturday. The Golden Eagles had won three straight before falling to Cincinnati on wednesday, 67-60.