- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. You know the first day healthy after being really sick? That day's the best, right?
No. 7 Georgetown at Connecticut, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Even if you have no concept of why we track basketball performance on a per-possession basis these days — even if the entire concept of maximizing each possession feels totally foreign (it shouldn't, but hey, you never know) — Otto Porter's performance Saturday against Syracuse was incredible: 7-for-9 on 2-pointers, 5-of-10 from 3-point range, 4-for-4 from the free throw line. Total: 33 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals, 2 assists.
Crazy game, right? Now consider this: Porter did all of that in just 60 possessions.
Indeed, despite one of the best all-around performances by any player this season, Porter and his teammates still couldn't climb over the point-per-trip barrier; they won said 60-possession game 57-46. Which is more than anything a testament to GU's defense. All season, with or without now academically ineligible Greg Whittington, the Hoyas have been locking people down. The difference lately -- in the nine-game winning streak that has not only sealed their NCAA tournament bid, but sent them shooting up the bracketology boards -- is Porter.
As Luke Winn mapped out last week, when Wittington was healthy, Porter was merely good. Since Porter has been dealt a higher number of possessions, however, his performance hasn't faded (as is typical of a player who gets more touches). Indeed, he's only become more efficient.
That gives Georgetown a baseline of offense and a go-to star that can carry the Hoyas through major stretches, and that makes them very dangerous at this point of the season.
(I don't have the space to opine about UConn, but just so the UConn fans don't feel slighted: I was just looking at its roster, and if I'm assuming correctly that everyone will come back for another season [Shabazz Napier being the only player who might realistically want to go pro after the Huskies were banned from this year's NCAA tournament], will UConn be the Big East favorite next season? Close, right?)
San Diego State at No. 14 New Mexico, 10:15 p.m. ET, CBS Sports
It feels like every time I write about the Mountain West at this point of the season, I'm writing about how much I love the Mountain West. So, at the risk of breaking out in the breakdown from "King of Carrot Flowers" — I-uhhhh love you yessss I doooooo — let's get that out of the way: The Mountain West is spectacular this season. I couldn't be enjoying it more.
Is there any conference that more regularly plays close games? Can even the Big Ten keep up on that front? Is there another league with more viable title contenders this deep into February? That last bit was the case, at least, until New Mexico separated itself from Colorado State and the rest of the pack with a win at CSU on Saturday, a game in which Kendall Williams topped even Porter's scoring: Williams had 46 points on 10-of-13 shooting from 3 -- yes, from 3-point range.
It was the kind of miracle night that made you think this is just UNM's year, an incredibly impressive feat considering the number of tight games and great performances we've seen from a league that is suddenly, even despite losing BYU in recent seasons, one of the tightest and pound-for-pound deepest in the country.
After San Diego State, the Lobos will close with a home game vs. Wyoming, a trip to Nevada, and a trip to Wyoming. In other words, tonight very well could be your conference title clincher. It won't be one to miss.