“Delicious” typically does not apply to basketball games, but it describes this Saturday’s game at Pauley Pavilion between UCLA and St. John’s.
St. John’s is in position for its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2002 after its blowout victory on Sunday over then-No. 3 Duke, the last of the Red Storm’s eight straight games against ranked opponents.
St. John’s first-year coach is Steve Lavin, who was born in San Francisco, grew up in Marin County, began college at San Francisco State and was head coach at UCLA for seven years before being fired and replaced Ben Howland in 2003.
Now Lavin returns to UCLA to face Howland in a game that starts at 10 a.m. (check the number of empty seats at tip-off) and could determine the postseason fate for both teams.
Howland is in his eighth season at UCLA, and although few would deny he’s an upgrade over Lavin, several comparisons of their seven complete seasons at UCLA should be noted: Lavin’s Bruins got to the NCAA Tournament six times; Howland’s Bruins five. Lavin won 20 games or more six times; Howland four. Lavin had one losing Pac-10 season; Howland has had two.
Number of the week – 11 – Big East teams ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi says would be in the NCAA Tournament if the event began today. All 11 would be in with room to spare. Never have more than eight teams from a conference been in the NCAA Tournament.
Top Five Teams (plus one)
1. San Diego State (21-1) – Aztecs still ranked among nation’s top six.
2. BYU (20-2) – Cougars’ loss at New Mexico so excited stomping Lobos’ students that a section of the stands collapsed.
3. Utah State (20-2) – Aggies’ 15-game winning streak is third longest in the country. They play at St. Mary’s on Feb. 19.
4. Washington (15-5) – Huskies’ loss at Washington State makes them 4-5 away from home.
5. Arizona (18-4) – Wildcats have yet to claim a quality win.
6. St. Mary’s (18-4) – Was that a good eight-day stretch or not? Gaels won at Gonzaga, but lost by 19 to Vanderbilt before and by 15 to Portland after.
Quote of the week: “They’re kind of drinking the Kool-Aid of what he’s selling.” – Cal coach Mike Montgomery after Saturday’s tense win over Oregon, which is 3-6 in the Pac-10 and has performed far better than expected under first-year coach Dana Altman.
Note of the week: Having a freshman point guard typically spells doom. Not so in the West Coast Conference. Santa Clara (Evan Roquemore) and USF (Cody Doolin) both have freshman point guards, and the two surprising teams are tied for second place, a game behind first-place St. Mary’s, heading into their Saturday showdown. Portland beat St. Mary’s by 15 points on Saturday, largely because Pilots freshman point guard Tim Douglas made his second career start and scored 26 points.
Anatomy of a game-winning play:
1. Weber State practices halfcourt shots at the end of game-day shoot-arounds, and Scott Bamforth made three of them prior to Saturday’s game against Northern Colorado.
2. With 2.4 seconds left in a tie game, Northern Colorado’s Devon Beitzel went to the foul line. Weber State had no timeouts left, but because officials reviewed the play to determine how much time was left, Weber State had time to huddle and plan a final shot.
3. While Beitzel was at the line, Bamforth told two Northern Colorado players he was going to hit a game-winning shot.
4. Beitzel made both free throws, but Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill admitted he erred. “I should have called timeout, and I should have had Devon miss the free throw,” Hill told ESPN.com. If Beitzel had missed the second free throw, the clock would have started when the ball was rebounded, and the Wildcats would have had to scramble. After the made free throw, Weber State’s Darin Mahoney could run the baseline, survey the court and execute a planned play.
5. Bamforth received the inbounds pass, took one dribble and nailed a 40-footer to win the game by one and hand Northern Colorado its first Big Sky loss.