Above The Rest

I expect to see Norman Dale in the crowd tonight.

Do yourself a favor and find the theme song from the movie “Hoosiers” and blast it on your desktop computer while you read this blog entry. It’ll play better.

The 9th ranked BYU Cougars host the undefeated 4th ranked San Diego State Aztecs this evening in Provo, Utah.  Regardless of who wins the game, an underdog will emerge as an absolute power in college basketball.

San Diego State looks like a runway model. You can’t find a blemish on the Aztecs season. They have won every game this season – a perfect 20-0 – which looks as impressive as any team in college basketball.  The Aztecs beat No. 12 Gonzaga at the Kennel in their second game of the season. San Diego State followed that up with a 20-point thrashing of California in Berkley. They’ve also posted wins over St. Mary’s and UNLV this season. Don’t tell me the Aztecs have an easy schedule where they don’t face a quality non-conference opponent. Just because you don’t know the team doesn’t mean they shouldn’t live in the top five of a college basketball poll.

It’s a controlled excitement in Provo.

Speaking with the sports information director at BYU this morning, he told me this was the most national attention and press credentials the Cougars have received since he’s been there. I believe it.

The Cougars play very well at arenas named after hotels. Most of us remember Danny Ainge and the 1981 Cougars upsetting Notre Dame at The Omni in Atlanta. Since 1971, BYU plays its home games at a place road teams hate with a marquee that reads “Marriott Center.” These guys must love turndown service. The Cougars only have one loss on the season – a neutral site game against UCLA in December. BYU beared down against Arizona, ran past UNLV and escaped a double overtime thriller against South Florida. They also beat St. Mary’s, the only common opponent the two titans of the conference share. Thanks to JD for pointing that out to me in a text message.

On its Bottom Line ticker, ESPN usually lists the major sports scores along with important news stories of the day. On Monday night they had part of their ticker read “SDSU-BYU.” The Worldwide Leader finally caught on to the magnitude of this game on Wednesday night. It’s only round one. Both teams meet on national TV in late February and will likely see each other in the conference tournament in March.

Welcome to Mountain West basketball.

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