Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Wednesday night's game at the Marriott Center is simply the biggest regular-season game of the Dave Rose era, and arguably the biggest regular-season game in BYU hoops history. To help you get ready, here are a few things you might find interesting leading up to the BYU-SDSU matchup:
With BYU ranked ninth and San Diego State ranked fourth in the AP Top 25 Poll, the combined ranking number of 13 represents the lowest combined ranking number for any BYU regular-season game played in Provo. In 1955, No. 5 BYU visited No. 2 North Carolina State, and that remains the only regular-season game BYU has ever played that featured a lower combined AP ranking number.
A win is a win is a win, but some wins mean more than others. In the eyes of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, road games and road wins are very important when assessing teams' tourney worthiness, and Wednesday night's BYU-SDSU game features the two top teams in the country in "RPI wins." The RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) factors only Division I victories, with varying weights, as follows: home win is worth 0.6, a neutral-court win is worth 1.0, and a road win is worth 1.4.
Using those assigned values, SDSU's 20 wins amount to a nation's-best 18.0 "RPI wins," while BYU ranks second nationally, with its 19 victories equating to 17.6 "RPI wins." SDSU is 11-0 in away/neutral games, while BYU is 11-1 playing away from Provo. Both teams' willingness to go on the road is sure to pay off on Selection Sunday.
BYU has beaten San Diego State in five of the last six meetings, and eight of the last 11 encounters. Rose has never lost to the Aztecs at the Marriott Center, winning all five of his get-togethers with SDSU in Provo, by an average of 11 points per game.
In conference play, BYU is averaging almost 20 more points per game than San Diego State, with the Cougars scoring 89.2 ppg to the Aztecs' 69.4 ppg. SDSU plays a slower-tempo game, compensating for lower offensive outputs with the Mountain West's top-rated scoring defense. BYU by comparison, is last in the league in scoring defense (allowing 74.8 ppg), with the Cougars more than content to coax opponents into run-and-gun affairs.
Compare the two teams and their contrasting styles side-by-side, and you still get the league's top two squads in conference scoring margin; BYU with +14.4 ppg advantage, and the Aztecs winning conference games by an average of 10.2 ppg.
BYU and SDSU are separated by a wide gap from the free throw line. In five MWC games, BYU leads the conference, shooting 80 percent from the stripe. SDSU ranks last, at 61 percent. So far in league play, BYU has taken 123 free throws and made 98; the Aztecs have attempted 86 freebies, converting 52. The difference in points scored from the free throw line is a substantial 46 through only five games — an average of better than nine points per contest, and cause for concern if you're Aztecs coach Steve Fisher.
BYU is no slouch on the boards, but the Aztecs are relentless under the hoop. Overall and in conference play, SDSU leads the league in rebound margin, specializing in securing second-chance opportunities.
The Aztecs lead the MWC in offensive rebounding percentage, grabbing 38 percent of their missed shots and available missed free throws. In last year's game with BYU at Viejas Arena, Fisher's club rebounded 40 percent of its misses. SDSU doesn't have the most gifted pure shooters, but the Aztecs have the length and strength to scrap for "hustle points."
In 20 games, SDSU has been outscored in second-chance points only four times. In five conference games, the Aztecs have outscored the opposition 61-44 in second-chance points.
Last year, BYU's 21st game of the season came against San Diego State. BYU entered the game with a 19-1 record, and left at 20-1. This year's BYU team faces the Aztecs in its 21st game, with that same 19-1 mark.
SDSU has won 10 consecutive MWC games. The Aztecs last loss came at BYU, on a winter Wednesday night at the Marriott Center in 2010, in front of 20,000-plus Cougar fans. Exactly 48 weeks later, on another winter Wednesday night, the Cougars and Aztecs clash again, in front of a crowd that will fill all 22,700 seats and capture the attention of college basketball observers from coast to coast. I'm fortunate to say I'll observe the game from one of the best seats in the house; it should be a great show.
Greg Wrubell is the radio play-by-play "Voice of the Cougars," and hosts BYU football and basketball coaches' shows on KSL Newsradio and KSL 5 Television. Wrubell's blog "Cougar Tracks" can be found at byu.ksl.com. "Behind the Mic" is published every Tuesday during the BYU football and basketball seasons. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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