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Monday, February 28, 2011
Katz: Five observations from the week

By Andy Katz

Five observations from the week that was:

1. Jimmer Fredette is the clear frontrunner for national player of the year. Duke's Nolan Smith and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger can certainly end the season with higher-profile performances, but Fredette made quite a statement over the weekend. He played as complete a game in a hostile environment as any of the aforementioned have personally played in this season. Fredette was targeted throughout the game by the passionate SDSU fans as well as the Aztec defense. Yet he played with four fouls, made 3s, scored 25 points and tied a season-high with nine assists in a convincing road win at San Diego State.

BYU's Jimmer Fredette
Following BYU's win over San Diego State on Saturday, Jimmer Fredette appears to be the clear choice for player of the year.
Fredette has handled himself at such a high level throughout the course of this season. He has been the focus for every opposing defense, yet has answered every opportunity and has put BYU in position to be a No. 1 seed. I'm not sure either or the aforementioned players or Connecticut's Kemba Walker have to deal with the personal shots and vitriol that Fredette has to deal with on the road. If he wins this honor, it would be a testament to a player who worked his tail off throughout his career to become a star.

2. Harvard blew a chance to win the Ivy League title outright this coming weekend when it lost at Yale on Saturday. But all is not lost. The Crimson can still make history, win the Ivy League for the first time and reach the NCAA tournament for only the second time. The other time was in 1946. If Harvard wins its next two games against Penn and Princeton, then at the very least there will be a one-game playoff on a neutral site during Champ Week. The two teams would have split the season series and have one other conference loss (Harvard to Yale and Princeton to Brown).

According to the Ivy League, contingency plans for a date and site for the playoff game are being made. The likely neutral site would be at Yale in New Haven, Conn., which would fall roughly in between the two schools. The Ivy League is toying with the idea of playing the game either Thursday, Friday or Saturday of Champ Week. Princeton plays Penn on Tuesday of that week, which may prevent the title game from being played earlier than Friday.

3. Xavier has quietly put together a remarkable story by rising to the top of the Atlantic 10 yet again. Chris Mack has done a phenomenal job with a limited roster due to injuries and eligibility. He has been saved to some degree by an outstanding point guard in Tu Holloway. Still, the Musketeers are a model of consistency in the league and continued to roll with a win in a hostile environment at Dayton on Sunday. Xavier is 13-1 in the A-10 with two games to play, 22-6 overall and a lock for the NCAAs. Closing out the season against Charlotte and at Saint Louis is a mere formality. The A-10 isn't as strong this season, especially from sixth place down to 14. But X wins the games it's supposed to and then some and continues to be the benchmark for this conference.

4. Assessing Florida State and Georgetown will be a tough chore for the selection committee. FSU doesn't have its best player in Chris Singleton (fractured right ankle) for the foreseeable future. The Seminoles beat Wake Forest and Miami, but lost at Maryland without Singleton. So how will the committee judge Florida State? The résumé likely will put the Noles in the field, but they should be seeded much lower based on the personnel that will play in the tournament. Meanwhile, Georgetown is without arguably its most important player in guard Chris Wright. He broke a bone in his non-shooting left hand and the Hoyas are convinced he will return by the NCAA tournament. But they lost at home against Syracuse without him and were horrendous against Cincinnati after he went down early in the game. Georgetown has one game remaining (at Cincinnati) and then it’s on to the Big East tournament. Going 0-2 before Selection Sunday would not be advisable.

5. The Big East tournament won't have bubble drama. Cincinnati's win over Georgetown and Marquette's win over Connecticut may have put both teams in the NCAA tournament. If that's the case, the conference tourney may not have any bubble drama when the quarterfinals start on Thursday. It will be a slugfest, but it may not even affect seeding that much for the Big Dance. What’s also interesting is that the Big East might not have an NIT team. The division from NCAA to no postseason is a clear line at 11. The bottom five teams haven't done much to command an invitation to a postseason tournament. So the Big East teams can go to New York to slug it out, but ultimately it won't matter much in the bracketing of the NCAA tournament.