Just two days ago the Mountain West Conference announced its regular season award recipients. At the top of that list, much to the chagrin of many BYU fans was New Mexico’s Darington Hobson, who was named the league’s Player of the Year. Second in the voting was BYU’s Jimmer Fredette. The debate: Who was more deserving?
Earlier that night, Darington Hobson took his squad upon his back with a dominating 28 point 14 rebound performance. The debate it seemed had been settled. But in his MWC Tournament opener Jimmer Fredette called Mr. Hobson’s bet, and raised the stakes. Fredette scored a MWC Tournament record 45 points as his Cougars defeated upset-minded TCU 95-85.
In what was likely the “quietest” 45 point explosion in college basketball this season, Fredette scored over half of his points from the free throw line. Fredette converted 23 of his 24 charity stripe attempts as the Cougars won their school record 29th game.
But it was not a perfect sail into the Semis for the Cougars. TCU, who was blitzed by 30 points by this very BYU team just a week ago, played what might have been its best offensive game of the season. Truth be told, if you ask TCU head coach Jim Christian what his team’s chances would be if it did the following: Scored 85 points, shoot 52% from the field and hit 10 Three Pointers, he would have taken it. But in the end, TCU just couldn’t keep up with the tremendous pace set by the Cougars.
The Horned Frogs held the Halftime lead and countered every punch with the nationally ranked Cougars throughout the first part of the Second Half. The high point for the Frogs came at the 16:29 mark when Edvinas Ruzgas threw down a thunderous transition dunk to give TCU a 3 point lead. From that point on, it was all Jimmer Fredette. Using a three guard lineup BYU stretched their lead to as many 15 down the stretch.
According to some prognosticators the Cougars still have much to prove to the Tournament Selection Committee. Despite a Top 15 ranking and a respectable RPI, many do not feel BYU has proven itself enough to merit a Top 5 seed. A seven game NCAA First Round losing streak doesn’t help the Cougar cause either. This group of Cougars earned another MWC Tourney game to prove not only who the best player in the MWC is, but that this BYU squad is different from those in years past.
The Cougars will face the UNLV Rebels in the Semifinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. BYU hasn’t defeated the Rebels in Vegas in over a decade. The two squads split their season series with one another. BYU has typically had problems with the athleticism of the Rebels and have a great opportunity to assure them a great seed in next week’s Big Dance with a de facto road win on Friday in Vegas.