College Basketball Nation: Kawhi Leonard

Jimmer and friends resurrect hoops tonight

September, 22, 2011
There's a basketball game on national television tonight, and Jimmer is playing in it.

For fans lulled to sleep by the NBA lockout and the lengthy college offseason, the Jimmer's All-Stars event on the BYU campus will feature the professional debuts of numerous NBA draft picks, including host Jimmer Fredette, fellow team captain Kawhi Leonard and national champion Kemba Walker.

The exhibition features numerous storylines that developed after Team Fredette coached by BYU's Dave Rose and Team Leonard coached by San Diego State's Steve Fisher conducted a draft to fill in the eight-man rosters.

Fredette and Walker, the native New Yorkers who led the nation in scoring last season, will be on opposite sides and square off for the first time.

Fredette and Leonard, whose college teams had epic showdowns last season that raised the profile of the Mountain West and resulted in a shared conference championship, will face off again.

Fredette's team includes fellow Sacramento Kings draft pick Tyler Honeycutt, whose former UCLA teammate Malcolm Lee is on the other side and has the distinction of holding Fredette to a season-low of 25 points in games BYU lost last season.

Former BYU guard Jackson Emery also returns to the Marriott Center for possibly his one and only professional game, as he'll team up with Fredette one more time after recently deciding to step away from basketball.

And for NBA fans looking to get a glimpse of first-round picks Bismack Biyombo, Chris Singleton, Tobias Harris, Nolan Smith and Kenneth Faried, here's your chance.

"The draft was a lot of fun and helped continue the buzz about the game on Thursday," Fredette said in a statement. "I'm excited about my team and I know Kawhi feels like he has a great squad as well. Personally, I'm really looking forward to playing one final game with Jackson in front of our home fans. We had so many great memories during our career at BYU and it will be fun to enjoy one last game night experience together at the Marriott Center."

The game originally scheduled in Salt Lake City as part as what was to have been a two-game exhibition series was canceled, so tonight's the night to tune in to BYUtv.

Basketball is being played again, and that's reason enough for excitement.

San Diego State ready to rebound

August, 10, 2011
After going to the Sweet 16, San Diego State knew it was going to have to rebuild when Kawhi Leonard declared for the NBA draft and four other seniors departed from a 34-win team.

Yes, Steve Fisher was able to reload with a couple of talented 6-7 transfers in J.J. O'Brien from Utah and Dwayne Polee II from St. John's. But they won't be eligible until 2012-13.

For this coming season, the Aztecs have found that patching up some holes to be an uncertain process. Washington State transfer Xavier Thames gives them another guard, but the frontcourt is thin. Fisher signed former Loyola Marymount forward Kevin Young to a financial aid agreement, but the 6-foot-8 talent reneged and went to Kansas instead. The team also hopes the NCAA will grant center Brian Carlwell a medical hardship so he will have one more season to play, but has yet to hear back.

So when 6-foot-11 forward Garrett Green decided last month he would leave LSU attend graduate school and become immediately eligible, San Diego State pounced on the Southern California native and announced his signing Tuesday.

"Garrett gives us an ingredient we are lacking in -- size," Fisher said in a statement. "He should be an excellent addition and has the athleticism to be an extremely important piece to our 2011-12 season."

Green, who averaged 6.3 points and 5.1 rebounds, is a former ESPNU top-100 recruit who'll now have an opportunity to get major minutes closer to home.

After tasting NCAA tournament success for the first time, expectations remain high even though the Aztecs could be due for a transition year. Season ticket sales remain good, and the school is throwing in highlight DVDs from last season to customers.

This season's Aztecs team might not make anyone forget about last year's Leonard-led team, but Fisher certainly isn't going to concede a successful defense of the Mountain West Conference championship just yet.

Jimmer Fredette's success now helps UNLV

July, 26, 2011
BYU's Jimmer Fredette twice torched UNLV last season, going off for 39 and 29 points in two wins against the Rebels. But now, it's tales of Fredette's success that will undoubtedly be used to UNLV's advantage when it comes to recruiting.

That much became obvious when Dave Rice, the former BYU associate head coach and offensive mastermind, took the job at his alma matter. And according to the Las Vegas Sun, Rice smartly hasn't been shy about linking himself to Fredette's legend.
And once he identifies the players he believes fit it best, Jimmer Fredette's success story is one that he can pitch that will grab the attention of the high school players he's currently recruiting. It's a relevant trick he'll likely be able to pull out of his bag for many years to come.

"Jimmer deserves the bulk of the credit for what he became, but the reality is he had a lot of help from our staff," he said. "And so I think the thing that really speaks volumes is that he came to us as a good player, but did not come to us as a finished product. So, I think the fact that I can actually speak with credibility in terms of our role in helping him develop and the freedom we gave him and what that did for him."

Already, Fredette's national player of the year status playing under Rice has paid dividends at UNLV.

When 2013 recruit Christian Wood committed to UNLV, he noted to the Las Vegas Sun that Rice had coached Fredette and that associate head coach Justin Hutson had coached Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State.

When Baltimore point guard Daquan Cook decided to commit to the Rebels, his AAU coach told the Baltimore Sun, "Coach Rice, we researched him, and he did really well with Jimmer Fredette."

And then there's Katin Reinhardt, the former USC commit who UNLV is after and is already getting headlines as the "Next Jimmer." It might not be out of the question because Reinhardt has already heard that kind of talk from Rice, according to the Las Vegas Sun.
"He compared me to Jimmer Fredette a lot," Reinhardt said, referring to Rice's former star pupil at BYU. "How he let him play is how he'll let me play. That freedom, being able to do that stuff, that's what I look at. Look where Jimmer got. He went to the NBA as a lottery pick. So if you could get that kind of coach to be behind you 100 percent, that's everything you could ask for."

Who would have thought that UNLV's nemesis that is The Jimmer would ever help the Rebels in some way? It was already a little awkward when the Maloofs declared Fredette a Sacramento King with signage at the Palms.

But now thanks to Rice's presence, Fredette is helping out UNLV. He even released a statement that the Rebels put out on the day Rice was hired.

"Coach Rice has such a great feel on the offensive end," Fredette said. "Working with him these past four seasons has given me great confidence as a player. I'm glad to see him get a chance to be a head coach. He deserves it."

The dunk attempt that cost a front tooth

July, 14, 2011
San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin is expected to make a big jump next season in his sophomore year with the Aztecs in rebuilding mode, and he recently showed off his high-flying abilities by attacking the rim. Unfortunately for the 6-foot-5 Franklin, the rim fought back and hit him right in the mouth.

Here is a picture of Franklin after losing a tooth.

Franklin told he needed five hours at the dentist on Tuesday to put the front tooth back into place and also had this recollection of hitting his mouth on the rim.
"LaBradford Franklin [a teammate] threw me an oop," Franklin said. "And I went to dunk it, and my tooth got caught in between the net and the rim and as I was coming down, it just came out."

Franklin said there was a lot of blood, and the reaction from fans watching the Aztecs play in SDSU's on-campus gym ranged from "grossed out" to "surprised."

"I think that's probably the highest I've ever jumped," Franklin said.

It's San Diego State coach Steve Fisher who should have a wide smile after hearing about the incident and the athleticism he has coming back next season. Kawhi Leonard leaving school for the NBA draft meant the Aztecs would lose four starters off their Sweet 16 team and need the underclassmen to play larger roles.

Franklin is perhaps best remembered for being whistled for a controversial dead-ball technical foul while making contact with UConn's Kemba Walker in the Sweet 16, but he was also relied upon in those moments to guard Walker. His leaping ability gives San Diego State another dimension, and he'll be needed to play more than the 8.1 minutes he averaged as a freshman.

So smile, San Diego State. Or at least manage a gap-toothed grin. There's still plenty to be excited about.

San Diego State thanks Kawhi Leonard

July, 1, 2011
It's not often an NBA draft pick does his farewell news conference in college after the big day, but it worked out well that way for Kawhi Leonard and San Diego State. Leonard helped take the Aztecs to unprecedented heights and the Sweet 16 before announcing via a news release he was turning pro after a memorable sophomore season.

On Friday, a week after being drafted 15th overall and traded to the San Antonio Spurs, Leonard came back to campus to say good-bye.

"There's no question that Kawhi's legacy will live long after today with his leaving San Diego State," coach Steve Fisher told reporters. "It's already done that, the ripple effect when Kawhi's name is mentioned. Until now it's been Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State. Now it will be Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs, college: San Diego State."

Fisher wants to see Leonard back on the bench when it's convenient, and of course, part of him wishes the versatile forward were still available to play. The San Diego Union-Tribune notes that as of now, the rebuilding Aztecs only have eight scholarship players on the roster.

Despite Leonard's early departure, Fisher and the rest of his program did not lose sight of the fact that the lightly-recruited prospect, who led them to their first NCAA tournament wins, represented something much larger. The team's achievements brought relevancy to the program and packed the arena. After Leonard was drafted, the Aztecs put out a congratulatory highlight video. Now the standard is set for future players to keep it going.

Asked what he gained from the San Diego State experience, Leonard said, "A winning edge and more of a mental focus on basketball, it's not all physical. Just learning every part of my game and how a team works and just becoming a great team to go as far as we did in the tournament."

"It's also nice to hear when Kawhi starts talking that San Diego State is in the forefront of what he says and he says it with conviction and meaning," Fisher said. "He's always going to be one of ours, obviously. We'd like to have him bouncing a ball for us next year, but he will always be an Aztec, and it is well documented the great things that happened while he played here. He was the ringleader at the forefront of all of it."

San Diego State big man wants sixth year

May, 11, 2011
San Diego State is in need of a big man after Kawhi Leonard left for the NBA draft and Malcolm Thomas completed his eligibility. The rebuilding Aztecs hope the answer to their problem already lies within their program.

Center Brian Carlwell, a 6-foot-11, 300-pound presence who was a solid rotation member off the bench, has decided after some contemplation to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Carlwell played in all 37 games this season and hopes his past can help him gain another year. In 2007, he was playing at Illinois and seriously injured in a car accident in which his teammate Jamar Smith eventually pleaded guilty to driving under the influence causing great bodily harm. Carlwell suffered a severe concussion and then suffered a season-ending injury after three games that season before transferring to San Diego State. Even though he has already taken five years to play in four seasons, Carlwell wants one more.

From the Union-Tribune:
Technically, Carlwell is not applying for a medical hardship waiver since his five-year NCAA clock has expired and his sophomore season at Illinois was counted as a redshirt year. Instead, he is petitioning directly to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility based on what [coach Steve] Fisher calls "the whole package … of tremendously extenuating circumstances."

Massive head trauma can take months, even years, to overcome mentally and physically, and Carlwell has admitted he wasn’t "right" well into the following season.

"My equilibrium was thrown off," Carlwell told the Union-Tribune in a February 2010 interview. "Every now and then when I would walk, I would stumble. It was like I was really clumsy. Or things like a right-handed layup. I'm left-handed, so I had to rebuild that again … Everything was just a little off."

Getting Carlwell for another senior season would help the Aztecs, as he would become their leading returning rebounder after averaging 2.7 per game. San Diego State also has Loyola Marymount transfer Kevin Young becoming eligible to give the team a 6-foot-8 forward with a knack for rebounding.

Perhaps just as important, Carlwell was a member of two NCAA tournament teams and could bring that experience back to the Aztecs. They could certainly use that link to the past while preparing to defend the Mountain West Conference title.

SDSU loses Kawhi Leonard and his recruiter

April, 15, 2011
Kawhi Leonard was a game-changing player in so many ways for San Diego State.

The 6-foot-7 forward averaged a double-double over the course of his two-year Aztecs career and this season helped lead them to an unprecedented Sweet 16 appearance.

Leonard's success also sent a message to future generations of recruits that you can win at San Diego State and achieve your NBA dreams as well. That wasn't nearly as apparent when years ago, the former California Mr. Basketball spurned late advances from larger schools in favor of the Aztecs.

Leonard leaving school for the NBA draft was an expected move that will hurt the Aztecs in the short term as they will be missing four starters from this year's team, including seniors D.J. Gay, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White.

And it will also hurt that Steve Fisher has lost the assistant coach who recruited Leonard to the school. Justin Hutson, the team's recruiting coordinator, has been hired as the associate head coach at Mountain West Conference rival UNLV, giving new Rebels coach Dave Rice a key piece.

"Justin Hutson is as good of a recruiter as there is on the West Coast," Rice told reporters.

San Diego State might not be preseason favorites in the Mountain West, but the program should have enough for a legitimate defense of their regular-season title. The Aztecs return a top defender in Chase Tapley along with sharpshooter James Rahon. They have an emerging guard in Jamaal Franklin and also add potential impact transfers in guard Xavier Thames and forward Kevin Young. Brian Carlwell, the team's 6-foot-11 center, could be back if the senior pursues a medical redshirt.

Leonard's presence boosted the program's profile and raised expectations. It now falls upon a new crop of players to continue what was started, and the lifelong Aztec will be watching.

"I will follow every San Diego State basketball game," Leonard said in a statement. "I will stay in touch with all of the players and coaches and look forward to following their future successes."

Aztecs hurting, but have left a legacy

March, 24, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Moments after the best season in San Diego State history, coach Steve Fisher offered his team words of consolation.

“The last thing I will say that I said to our team is give one another a hard hug and tell them how much you love them, and don't be ashamed to cry. Don't be ashamed to shed a tear,” Fisher said.

“You've done so much for San Diego State, the community, and for yourselves that when we reflect back on it, all of us will know that, the legacy that you've established.”

[+] EnlargeSan Diego State
AP Photo/Jae C. HongThe 2010-11 Aztecs took San Diego State to heights it had not seen, but were still disappointed with a loss to UConn.
There will be plenty of what-ifs when the Aztecs ultimately think back to their 74-67 loss to Connecticut in the Sweet 16. What if Kawhi Leonard and Jamaal Franklin hadn’t been whistled for technical fouls? What if the Aztecs hadn’t missed more than half of their free throws? What if Kemba Walker was actually stoppable on Thursday?

But immediately after the game, what the Aztecs did not lose was their perspective.

“We went from nobody even knowing about San Diego State,” senior Billy White said. “Everyone knew it as a party school.”

San Diego State showed the nation that it could indeed dance. The Aztecs knocked off Northern Colorado and Temple to set up this game about an hour-and-a-half from campus in front of their fans and against one of the blue bloods.

They simply couldn’t stop Walker, who went against three different defenders one-on-one and still scored 36 points.

“He made some tough shots on us,” White said. “He’s fearless.”

Said Chase Tapley: “He was feeling it. He’s just a great player.”

San Diego State didn’t do itself any favors either. Leonard was called for a technical in the first half that sent him to the bench with his second personal foul. He had exchanged words with a UConn player. “My comment (to the official) was, ‘At this level and this stage, could you not say something to them,’” Fisher said.

With 9:19 left and San Diego State hanging onto a four-point lead, Franklin was T’d up for bumping into Walker, who fell to the floor and then hit the two free throws. “I don’t know how hard he was hit,” San Diego State senior point guard D.J. Gay said.

Walker would take over the game, but the Aztecs did have one final chance. With San Diego State trailing by a point, Leonard had an open look at a 3-pointer, but missed it with 2:13 left. On the other end of the court, Jeremy Lamb hit a back-breaking 3.

“It should hurt, regardless of when, where and how,” Fisher said. “For our team this year, for what they've accomplished, it hurts exponentially more.”

Said Gay, who scored 16 second-half points in his last hurrah: “We didn’t want it to come to an end.”

Rapid Reaction: UConn 74, San Diego St. 67

March, 24, 2011
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Connecticut’s Kemba Walker tied a school tourney record with 36 points, willing the Huskies to a 74-67 win against No. 2 seed San Diego State that sends them to the Elite Eight. Freshman Jeremy Lamb added 24 points, tying a career high. San Diego State got 16 second-half points from D.J. Gay after he was shut out in the first half. Kawhi Leonard had 12 points and nine rebounds and Malcolm Thomas had 13 points and eight boards, but it wasn’t enough. The Aztecs played in front of a hometown-type crowd, but Walker stole the show and couldn’t be denied. After averaging 30 points in a 5-0 UConn run through the Big East tournament, he's averaging 29 in three NCAA tourney wins.

Turning point: Lamb hit a 3-pointer with 1:39 to play that put Connecticut up 68-64, capitalizing on a second-chance opportunity after Walker’s miss. The shot gave the Huskies breathing room and sufficiently responded to a Gay 3-pointer that had cut the lead to a point.

Key player: Walker was masterful, going 12-for-25 from the field. There was little San Diego State could do to stop him. The Aztecs put Chase Tapley, Billy White and Jamaal Franklin on him, and Walker still managed to take over the game. He hit step-back shots, ran off screens well for open looks and at times seemingly went against the entire defense on his own. He was 4-for-8 from beyond the arc and UConn also shot 50 percent (8-16) as a team.

Key stat: Lamb was 9-for-11 from the field, providing the Huskies with a much-needed second option to Walker. He had two dunks in the final minute to help seal the game, one coming after he stole the ball on a pass from Gay.

Miscellaneous: It didn’t help San Diego State that it picked up two technical fouls. Leonard was whistled for one in the first half that gave him a second personal foul. In the second half, Franklin made contact with Walker after a timeout, and was called for one as well. The Aztecs would later get into foul trouble as Leonard played with four fouls for the final 7:25.

What’s next: UConn, after its first-ever Sweet 16 win over a higher-seeded team, moves on to play the winner of tonight’s Arizona-Duke game for a chance to go to the Final Four for the fourth time.

Sweet 16 preview: UConn vs. San Diego St.

March, 24, 2011

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- A look at the Aztecs-Huskies matchup here at the Honda Center:

No. 3 seed Connecticut (28-9) vs. No. 2 seed San Diego State (34-2), 7:15 p.m. ET (CBS)

How they got here: San Diego State needed double overtime to outlast Temple and get to the Sweet 16. Just as they have throughout the season, the Aztecs survived that challenge and made plays down the stretch to earn their second NCAA tournament win in school history. Connecticut knocked off Big East opponent Cincinnati to reach the Sweet 16. The Huskies showed little rust having cruised past Bucknell as well, following a stretch during which they won five games in five days to win the Big East tournament title.

Storyline: San Diego State’s magical run continues on, with the Aztecs having only lost to one team all season -- Brigham Young. This time it’s not Jimmer Fredette standing in their way, but UConn’s Kemba Walker.

Connecticut has the pedigree and the tradition and San Diego State does not, but the Huskies don’t mind considering themselves underdogs since the Aztecs are the No. 2 seed. “I think we’re the underdog,” UConn forward Alex Oriakhi said. “We kind of like being the underdog.”

The Aztecs get to play in Southern California about an hour-and-a-half drive from campus, so look for them to have an advantage when it comes to the crowd. But coming from the Big East, Walker doesn’t think that will be much of a negative impact for the Huskies.

“We’ve been in some tough places this season,” he said. “We pulled some big wins out on the road. We’ll be fine.”

Players to watch: Walker has had a national player of the year-caliber season, averaging 23.6 point per game, and San Diego State will have to slow him down in order to improve its chances. Walker is a different type of player than Fredette, the BYU star who the Aztecs have had trouble handling on the perimeter, but the challenge is just as great.

“You’ve got to keep him off the line,” SDSU coach Steve Fisher said. “He know how to draw fouls. He’s lightning quick with the ball. We’ve got to keep him on the outside, challenge his perimeter shot, minimize the number of throws and layups he gets. It’s easy to say, hard to do.”

For San Diego State, forward Billy White is playing his best basketball, as he has notched double-doubles in his previous three games. The Aztecs would like to get point guard D.J. Gay's shot going after struggling in the NCAA tournament thus far.

But UConn will be focused on stopping Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State’s double-double machine who leads the team in scoring and rebounding.

“He’s a multi-dimensional forward who can do so many things,” Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. “He’s a lottery selection in my opinion. He’s a matchup problem from Day 1.”

What to look for: Asked how he would guard himself, Leonard obliged and said, “Play the best defense, and hope I miss.” That might go double for Walker and how the Aztecs plan to try to slow him down.

“Kemba gets to the basket at will, and his mid-range game is close to perfect,” Gay said.

Gay will likely get the first crack at Walker. But just as Fredette faced multiple defenders, expect to see White try to stop one of college basketball’s biggest shot-makers.

The Aztecs do appear to have an advantage inside with their strong frontline of Leonard, White and Malcolm Thomas. Still, Walker thinks his team has the players to match the Aztecs inside.

“If Alex and the other bigs do a great job containing those guys on the rebounding," he said of the 6-foot-9 Oriakhi, "then I think we’ll be fine."

Aztecs win ugly over Owls in 2OT

March, 19, 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Double-overtime isn't always about great basketball. Winning isn't always pretty. In terms of basketball that often made you want to scratch your eyes out, San Diego State and Temple put on quite a show.

But a "W" is the ultimate measure every time, even more so when not getting it means the season is over. The greatest season in the history of San Diego State basketball is not over after a 71-64 victory that required two extra frames to decide. And Temple's season is. Neither obsessed about aesthetics afterward.

Aztecs coach Steve Fisher began his post-game chat with reporters with a sympathetic message to Temple and its coach -- and his good buddy -- Fran Dunphy: "When you play a game like this and lose, it's so disastrous for awhile mentally that you can't comprehend it unless you are there."

And then he admitted it wasn't "perfect basketball," seeing the teams combine for 41 points in the second half, with both teams shooting under 35 percent from the field. Then he cut to the chase.

[+] EnlargeBilly White
Jennifer Stewart/US PresswireBilly White stepped up for the Aztecs by notching 16 points and 13 rebounds in SDSU's win over Temple.
"We've got a good team. We find different ways to win," he said. "We did that again tonight. And collectively we've won 34 games. So we feel we belong."

San Diego State had the final shot in regulation and in the first overtime, but couldn't convert on neither. Free throw shooting and defense made the difference the the second OT. Kawhi Leonard, who struggled offensively much of the game, made four free throws, grabbed a steal and made the ensuing dunk that sealed the deal. Malcolm Thomas and Billy White both blocked Temple shots in the final minute, with Thomas' block of Lavoy Allen perhaps being the play of the game.

When the final buzzer sounded, sheer exhaustion muted the Aztecs celebration. Chase Tapley, one of four Aztecs who scored in double figures, collapsed to the floor.

"It was just a great game to remember for a memory," Tapley said. "I just had to sit on the floor. I was exhausted. Just playing my heart out."

That goes for both teams.

San Diego State took an 11-point lead in the first half and looked to be establishing the fast pace it wanted. At halftime, when it led 36-31, the Aztecs had a 12-0 advantage in fastbreak points.

But Temple adjusted during halftime, and it controlled the tempo thereafter. San Diego State scored just 18 points after the break, frustrated as Temple mixed in some zone defenses.

"I thought they were a little comfortable in running their man offense," Dunphy said. "They were doing a good job on their high ball screens and we let [point guard D.J.] Gay get into the gaps a little too easy a couple times. So we said let's throw some zone at them and see how they react."

Said Fisher: "Temple did a good job of controlling tempo. That's what they've done all season. They made us guard. They made us guard for long stretches."

Still, the Aztecs looked to be in good shape when they took a seven-point lead at 52-45 with 7:18 left. They scored just one more bucket the rest of the way, though, as the Owls forced the first OT.

In the first overtime, Temple, with a 59-57 lead, watched as Leonard missed the second of two free throws. But Rahlir Jefferson was called for a lane violation. Suffice it to say, Temple fans will be talking about that call.

"I don't really know what I could say," Dunphy said. "Could they have let it go? Yeah. But that's the way it worked. We had to live with it."

Gay admitted that the Aztecs were "out of whack" at times during the game. But he noted, they are advancing to the Sweet 16 and "at the end of the day we came out with the win."

However, when a reporter tried to see poetry in the way San Diego State won -- calling it a team of destiny -- Gay balked.

"I don't think I'm throwing around 'destiny' just yet," he said. "It's kind of like, you know, hard work is paying off. You know, a team -- fruit of its labor."

It was laborious, yes, but it was a win. That is the only reward that matters in the NCAA tournament.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- San Diego State's 71-64 victory over Temple in double-overtime was equal parts thriller and ugly. But here's a guess that the Aztecs will take it.

Turning point: San Diego State took a 7-point lead at 52-45 with 7:18 left. The Aztecs would score only one more basket in regulation, and Temple tied the game at 54-54 on a hook shot from Lavoy Allen to force the first overtime. The turning point in the second overtime? Temple got two looks to tie the game at 65, but Khalif Wyatt and Allen both missed. Billy White then made a fadeaway jump shot on the other end, and the Aztecs had a little breathing room with two minutes left. The Owls scored just one more point.

Key player: With Kawhi Leonard struggling, White stepped up again by scoring 16 points and pulling down 13 rebounds.

Key stat: Leonard was just 5-of-14 from the field, but he connected on all six of his free throws, including four in the second overtime.

Miscellaneous: Both teams couldn't score in the second half after shooting well in the first. Temple hit 33.3 percent of its shots, while the Aztecs managed only 34.6 percent. ... The Aztecs had a 12-0 advantage in fast break points at halftime, but Temple had a 7-4 advantage in the second half.

What's next: San Diego State plays the winner of the Connecticut-Cincinnati game in the Sweet 16 on Thursday in Anaheim.

Preview: Saturday in Tucson

March, 19, 2011

TUCSON, Ariz. -- A look at Saturday's games in Tucson:

No. 7 seed Temple (26-7) vs. No. 2 seed San Diego State (33-2), 6:10 p.m. ET (TNT)

Temple and San Diego State both had a story and a game on Thursday. Both won games, so both stories are no longer front-and-center.

When Temple beat Penn State in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament, it won its first tournament game since 2001 and ended coach Fran Dunphy's record 11-game tournament losing streak. And when San Diego State beat Northern Colorado, it won its first tournament game. Period.

Those issues behind them, when the second-seeded Aztecs and seventh-seeded Owls meet today, it will only be about advancing to the Sweet 16. It will be about basketball.

"As soon as we walked out of the locker room we knew it was time to turn the page on this chapter of San Diego State basketball and start focusing on what's possible in the future," SDSU point guard D.J. Gay said. "And that's Saturday."

Oh, there is one other angle: Revenge.

In the 1994-95 season, Dunphy took his Penn Quakers to Ann Arbor and beat then-Michigan coach Steve Fisher, now the Aztecs coach.

"I think the referees cost us the game," Fisher quipped.

By the way, Fisher and Dunphy are good buddies.

The setup: San Diego State wants to run. Temple doesn't. The Aztecs are bigger in the frontcourt. The Owls are bigger in the backcourt. San Diego State is deeper. Five Temple players played 30 or more minutes against Penn State, and forward Lavoy Allen never left the game. Eight Aztecs played at least 10 minutes against Northern Colorado and just three played 30 or more minutes. Of course, SDSU won in a blowout. And it would help the Owls if they can get quality minutes out of forward Scootie Randall.

Who to watch: San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard is a force inside and averages a double-double, but he's merely the headliner for one of the nation's top frontcourts. Team captain and point guard D.J. Gay has a 4-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. For Temple, Juan Fernandez hit the game winner against Penn State and scored 23 points, as did Ramone Moore, who dominated the second half. Allen is the key figure inside for the Owls.

Why to watch: This will be a big-stage test against a quality foe for San Diego State to prove it deserves a No. 2 seed and is a legitimate Final Four contender. It's also a test of basketball styles. You might even wonder if fans will start competing chants of "East Coast" and "West Coast."

What they're saying:

Gay on Temple trying to slow down San Diego State's fast tempo: "We definitely try and play an uptempo game, try to speed it up. When teams try to slow it down on us, we might come out more aggressive on the defensive end. Try to cause more turnovers or do anything to help speed the game up. But I think speeding the game up can be done on the defensive end."

Fernandez on slowing down the Aztecs: "Well, like I just said before, we're a team that tries to slow down the ball a little bit, play more halfcourt offense and defense. That is where we feel more comfortable. On the other hand, they prefer to play an uptempo game and go up and down and try to get as many fast-break points as they can. So we will have to try to establish ourselves and play our rhythm."

Fernandez on his game winner against Penn State: "That shot was big yesterday. But we already celebrated. There is not too much you can do about it now. We just got to win tomorrow."

Moore on if San Diego State is similar to a team Temple has played: "I would say they're unique. I can't remember any teams that we played similar to the style of play they like to play."

Dunphy on Leonard: "He is a tough matchup for us. Especially if we have to play three guards, and [freshman] Aaron Brown will probably start on him and that's going be a tough matchup for Aaron Brown. We'll need to help him greatly. When Scootie gets in, he'll probably play him and Scoot's not used to playing over the last month. So he is a very difficult matchup for us, there's no question about it."

Dunphy on Scootie Randall's health: "I think yesterday we gave him the opportunity, as I said before, he deserved that opportunity to get in there yesterday. He had actually run full court on Tuesday and looked pretty good. Wednesday a little bit  we didn't run real hard on Wednesday, but gave him a little bit of a run there. And he ran a little bit full court again today. And we just finished our practice. So we'll do the same thing, put him in midway through the first half and see if he's more comfortable out there and he's helping us, then he can stay out there."

No. 5 seed Kansas St. (23-10) vs. No. 4 seed Wisconsin (24-8), approx. 8:40 p.m. ET (TNT)

As point guard showdowns go, it doesn't get much better than Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor versus Kansas State's Jacob Pullen.

Taylor averages 18 points and 4.7 assists. Pullen averages 19.5 points and 3.7 assists. Both earned first-team all-conference honors, Taylor in the Big Ten and Pullen in the Big 12. Pullen is the first Wildcat to earn first-team honors twice and was one of two unanimous picks this year. Taylor leads the nation with a 4.20 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Both said the round of 32 tilt between the Badgers and Wildcats is not about them. But both admitted to being aware of the matchup. And if they weren't, reporters were there to graciously remind them.

"Any time you play players like that, it definitely bring out the best in you," Taylor said. "You definitely have to bring your A-game. But at the end of the day it's about the team. They're not going to say Jacob Pullen moved on or Jon Leuer or Jordan Taylor moved on. So you definitely relish the challenge. It makes it fun to play against players like that. But, at the same time, it's all about what's on the front of your jersey."

While it's not really about a battle of point guards, it sort of is. Both are the engines of their respective teams on both ends of the floor. Pullen, in fact, seemed like a one-man team at times this season -- see his 27-point average over the final six regular-season games when the Wildcats were fighting for a spot in the tournament. And Taylor is the fulcrum of Bo Ryan's "swing offense."

Further, tempo will be critical in the matchup. The Wildcats and Pullen want to play fast. The Badgers and Taylor want to slow it down. And each will be trying to push his counterpart out of his comfort zone.

"We've got to do a great job of defending the ball screen and keeping [Taylor] in a position where he doesn't know what kind of defense we're playing, whether we're trapping it or soft hedging the ball screen," Pullen said. "The other thing is we really got to make him guard. Whoever he is guarding, we got to make sure he plays 36, 37 minutes a game. We got to make sure he is using his energy on both ends not only on offensive end."

One problem for Kansas State: It isn't easy to dictate tempo to Wisconsin, though many have tried, and Kansas State coach Frank Martin said as much.

"If you can speed up a Bo Ryan team, it will probably be the first time in 30 years that happens," Martin said. "Our challenge is to not allow Jordan Taylor to get comfortable. To not let him get in rhythm. And No. 2 is to keep him out of the paint. Because when he gets in the paint, then he forces help and then he finds shooters."

As for defending Pullen, Ryan doesn't see it that way exactly. While the Badgers largely play man-to-man defense, just like the Wildcats, it's still more team than individual.

"We don't get into a lot of, 'It's you against you, or you got to take him and you got to shut him down,'" Ryan said. "We don't do that because our defense is predicated on help. We always want to get five guys guarding three guys. That is our goal all the time. Learned that at a night clinic in Valley Forge, Pa., in the early '70s, and it still works."

Who to watch: Other than the point guards? There are a couple of bigs of note. For Wisconsin, it's Leuer, who leads the Badgers with 18.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He'll be matched with Curtis Kelly, who averages 10.3 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Why to watch: It's another interesting contrast of styles, with the Wildcats hoping for a fast-paced frenzy, and the Badgers preferring the half-court game. Both will try to impose their will on the other. The Badgers turned the ball over only 229 times this season versus 479 from Kansas State. And the Badgers are better at the free throw line, leading the nation with an .827 percentage versus .647 for the Wildcats. Of course, the Wildcats hit 86 percent of their free throws in their win over Utah State.

What they're saying:

Taylor on hearing that K-State will try to speed things up: "I think we have to do exactly what they're trying to do, play at our own pace. Play at the pace that we're comfortable with."

Leuer on Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels: "From what I've seen, they can do a lot. They're both very active and long and athletic. They have good touch around the basket. They're physical. And we're going to have to do our best to try to limit their touches and not let them get into a rhythm. And the more we can keep the ball out of there and not let them get deep post position... that's what you want to do against anybody, not let them get deep post position. But those guys, especially because they're going to make it hurt if they get it down there."

Ryan on Kansas State's physical offensive rebounding: "Well, contact's a good thing. You got to enjoy contact, physically to block people out. We're not going to outjump them. I don't think lengthwise we're going to be any longer than them. So you just got to do what you do every day in practice. Require guys to put a body on somebody. Don't let somebody get an angle. And be willing to dig in. I'm sure the other teams that play against them have said that, too. Then you got to go out and do it."

Pullen on the KSU scoring record: "When I'm done playing basketball at Kansas State and I get a chance to actually sit down and look back, I think it will mean a lot then and I'll really cherish it more. But right now I don't want to jinx myself and I don't want to know how close I am because that is the wrong focus."

Martin on narrowing his player rotation: "My job is to help our team win. And if guys don't deserve to play, it's not charity. You know, they better practice well or they're not going to wear a uniform."

Martin on his team: "Our kids acted this season like I wish our society would act. That means that when things get hard, they don't pass blame. They don't run away from it. They don't roll their eyes. They don't quit. Which is a great word in today's society, 'quit.' Contrary, our guys handle stuff with loyalty, with honesty, with commitment. Those are the words I grew up on. And, unfortunately, our society's turned some in today's day and age. I'm just happy our kids didn't pay attention to society and they stuck to the values that I believe in."

Yes, the 2011 John R. Wooden Award finalists are here. The award is organized by the Los Angeles Athletic Club and voted on by "nearly 1,000 members of the media that cover college basketball," and if you're surprised at the idea that there are 1,000 college hoops writers in the world, well, you're not the only one. (Lots of those ballots go to columnists and generalists who don't specifically cover the sport year-round ... but that's a topic for another blog post on another day.)

Who made the cut? The list is below, and it includes pretty much everyone you'd expect from a list of college hoops' best and brighest individual stars. The rundown:
Well, done, Los Angeles Athletic Club. That is a borderline peerless list.

But it isn't perfect. The most notable omission (perhaps the only notable omission) is Kentucky forward Terrence Jones, who has been one of the best players in the country throughout the season. Ken Pomeroy's latest player of the year award list ranks Jones as the eighth-most productive player in the country this season, and while Pomeroy's POY metric doesn't account entirely for the defensive side of the ball, player of the year awards are never all that concerned with the defensive end -- Brooks and Burks probably wouldn't be on the list above if they were -- so Pomeroy's list is as good a statistical look as we have. And, well, yeah: Jones should be among the Wooden candidates. There's really no getting around it.

That said, his omission isn't criminal. Jones deserves some POY consideration, but let's be real: He's not winning the award. Nor are 19 of the players listed above. Unless something radical changes, Fredette is going to win the Wooden and Naismith player of the year awards. If the voting does change anytime soon, the award is likely to go to Walker, Smith, or Sullinger.

In other words, this list has all the usual suspects. We'll see if any of the candidates has time to unseat the Jimmer in the weeks to come. It's unlikely ... but, hey, you never know.

Tre'Von Willis wouldn't vote Jimmer POY

March, 9, 2011
Jimmer Fredette was named the Mountain West Conference's player of the year, and according to the league's coaches and selected media members, the BYU star was a unanimous selection.

But if rival UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis had a vote, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he would have given it to a San Diego State player and appeared to take a swipe at Fredette.
"My vote would have been for Kawhi Leonard or maybe D.J. Gay, all-around players who can play defense," Willis said.

Earlier in the season, Willis drew attention from the BYU fan base when he said Fredette was "supposedly" the best player in the conference. Fredette heard about the comment and responded by scoring 39 points in Vegas as Willis tried to guard him.

Many have noted that Fredette's defense is the weakest part of his game. But it wasn't enough to keep any of the conference's voters from picking him for player of the year. Fredette, in fact, the favorite for national player of the year while Willis was selected to the all-conference second-team.

BYU and UNLV open play in the Mountain West Conference tournament Thursday, but they're on opposite sides of the bracket and would only meet in the title game.

One final matchup between Fredette and Willis at the Thomas & Mack might be one to watch.

Eh, forget the qualifier. It would definitely be a must-see.