Everything fell for Jimmer Fredette Friday night. And not just in BYU’s win.
The nation’s leading scorer put on the show of the year by dropping a career-high 52 points during an 87-76 win over New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament semifinals. He hit 22 of 37 shots, including 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. Everyone else on BYU was just 12 of 31.
“He’s very special. Everyone knows that. The country knows that,” New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. “Special players can have special evenings like this, especially in March. He had one of ’em.”
The Cougars (30-3) will play for the title Saturday. But thanks to Notre Dame’s loss and Duke possibly not having senior guard Nolan Smith for its ACC tournament semifinal vs. Virginia Tech, the Cougars could grab what few thought possible earlier this week.
A No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
The odds aren’t great, but it’s possible. Here’s the scenario:
- BYU beats San Diego State Saturday for its 31st win of the year and 12th vs. the RPI top 100. More impressive are seven wins vs. the RPI top 25 and the No. 5 overall RPI mark.
- Notre Dame, now 26-6 after a loss to Louisville, drops to a 2 seed. The Irish have more wins vs. the RPI top 100, but the same number of top 25 wins. They’re No. 6 in the RPI.
- Duke, which beat Maryland Friday, loses to Va. Tech. The Devils would be 28-5 overall with 15 wins vs. the RPI top 100, but only four vs. the top 25. They’re No. 4 in the RPI.
(This doesn’t even factor if Texas beats Kansas in the Big 12 title game. Hey, I had to make this manageable.)
Does that make the Cougars the most worthy team? Maybe. More important is that they’re back in the discussion, which didn’t seem likely ever since center Brandon Davies was dismissed for the season. Without him, BYU lost to New Mexico, mucked around vs. Wyoming and struggled in Thursday’s win over TCU.
But that’s where the Jimmer comes in.
The likely national player of the year had an historic night vs. the Lobos. He missed just six shots in the first half when he had 33 points. And even when the Lobos paid more attention to him, he still produced at a rate that shouldn’t be possible.
I mean, the guy easily outscored 13th-ranked Wisconsin, broke his own tournament scoring record and had more points in one game than any NBA player this season. It was a little unreal. And completely what we’ve come to expect out of Fredette.
“You know, earlier in his career we would kind of shake our heads. Now we really kind of expect that, which is probably not the right thing,” BYU coach Dave Rose said.
But when he’s in that rhythm where he believes everything he’s going to shoot is going to go in, he’s really hard to guard. They tried length, they tried quickness, they tried a combination of pressure and double-teams. Tonight Jimmer just found space, got into space and made shots. I think, you know, everybody on the team has seen that before, and they were happy that it happened tonight.”
Considering that he entered the game in a modest shooting slump – he was hitting 40 percent of his shots over the past 11 games – and it was easy to dig on the Cougars as one dimensional and unworthy of a 1 seed. Add in the fact that New Mexico had beaten BYU four straight times, and it elevates Fredette’s performance even more.
Fredette’s been a phenomenon for a few months now. Friday elevated it a little bit more.
And made it even tougher on the NCAA tournament seeding committee.
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