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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Saddle Up: You know what it is

By Eamonn Brennan

Saddle Up is our semi-daily preview of the night's best basketball action. Everything it do, it do it big. (Yeah, uh huh ...)

No. 4 San Diego State at No. 9 BYU, 10 p.m. ET, CBS College Sports: Comedian Louis C.K. has a rather depressing bit in "Hilarious," his latest stand-up special, in which he declares optimism to be synonymous with stupidity:
"You have to be optimistic to be single. Stupid. You've got to be stupid. That's what optimistic means, you know. It means stupid. An optimist is someone who says, 'Hey, maybe something nice will happen!' Why the [blank] would anything nice EVER happen? What are you, stupid?!"

That's Louis's worldview -- comically bleak, you could say -- and I'm not always sure it's the right one. (Though anyone who has been single for any period of time can certainly see what Mr. C.K. is getting at.) Me, I tend to like optimism, especially when it comes to college basketball.

I start each season with hope. I watch bad games on the off chance they turn good. I hope mediocre outings turn into classics. And I'm confident great matchups will live up to their billing, even if that billing is so overblown that it seems impossible for any game to truly fulfill those expectations.

Which brings us to San Diego State's trip to Brigham Young tonight. This is the game many have waiting for over the last few weeks, months, even years. It's the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history, the biggest game BYU has played in decades, and the biggest game in the history of San Diego State's traditionally fledgling hoops program.

In the red corner: One of nation's two remaining unbeaten teams (SDSU). In the blue corner: One of the nation's most consistently entertaining, fast-paced teams (BYU). And right smack dab in the middle is BYU guard Jimmer Fredette, who is not only a top national player of the year candidates, but one of those rare players in the sport -- like Stephen Curry, Larry Bird, Pete Maravich and few others before him -- capable of sparking an immense cult following with nothing more than the beauty of his individual excellence.

Naturally, that all sounds pretty awesome.

So, maybe I'm more like Louis C.K. than I'd like to think ... but I'm a little wary we might be setting ourselves up for a letdown.

You can read a nuts and bolts preview of the game here. You can also delve into how SDSU will likely try to stop Fredette here. At this point, tonight's game has been so widely discussed and eagerly anticipated that I don't have much to add in the way of analysis.

Instead, I'd just like to say this: Whatever happens tonight, let's enjoy it. This game has been billed as a classic so many times that it almost feels bound to disappoint. Let's not let that happen.

Let's cherish Kawhi Leonard, D.J. Gay, Billy White and the rest of San Diego State's unlikely, resource-bereft Final Four contender. Let's appreciate BYU's uptempo attack, its fire-away philosophy and its rare blend of quirk and skill.

Most of all, let's appreciate Fredette. Whatever happens tonight, you'll be watching one of the most fascinating and thrilling players we've ever seen step on a college basketball court. In 30 years, when YouTube is beamed directly into our brains, you'll still be watching Jimmer highlights. Don't miss him now.

I still think this game will be a classic. I'm still optimistic. But even if our astronomical expectations get the best of us -- even if this game is merely "good," even if Fredette doesn't melt our faces in customary fashion -- whatever we do see is bound to be pretty great. Soak it in, folks. Players like Fredette don't come along often. Games like this don't hit our TVs every week. Keep your expectations realistic but your enthusiasm high.

After all, you never know. Maybe something nice will happen.

(And just in case, I should remind you that I'll be live-chatting throughout the game right here. Drop by, and we'll enjoy this one together.)

Everywhere else: Texas is riding high after a program-defining win at Kansas on Saturday, but a trip to Oklahoma State (7:30 ET, ESPN) has all the makings of a trap game. ... Two 4-2 Big East teams will meet in Louisville tonight, and it will be interesting to see where West Virginia's season goes after the departure of Dan Jennings and the suspension of leading scorer Casey Mitchell. ... The last time Providence played at home, it took down the aforementioned Cardinals. Tonight, the Friars will try to extend that home upset mojo to a game with the more imposing Villanova Wildcats. ... St. John's travels to Georgetown. ... In Big Ten action, Northwestern will try to rebound from its home blowout at the hands of a ruthless efficient Wisconsin team with a win in Minneapolis. ... Charlotte is at Temple. ... Drexel will play fellow pesky Colonial member James Madison at JMU. ... Wichita State travels to Southern Illinois. ... North Carolina will see if freshman point guard Kendall Marshall can continue to make a difference at Miami. ... And Creighton faces UNI in a matchup of two of the Missouri Valley's second-tier contenders. See you in the chat, everyone.