By Jon Rothstein
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The Buffaloes are the sleeper team in the PAC 12 and have a real chance to help their NCAA chances with games at home against Arizona and Arizona State. Colorado is 6-5 in conference play and will have the next three games on their schedule at home. Tad Boyle’s team has experience, athleticism, and one of the nation’s more underrated back courts in Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker.
Nobody knows this, but the Gaels are 21-4 and have won nine games in a row. Why is everyone so hush on Saint Mary’s? They’ve yet to beat anyone that’s a lock for the NCAA Tournament — but that can change on Thursday night when Randy Bennett’s team hosts Gonzaga. The Bulldogs have been a top 10 team all season long, and if Saint Mary’s finds a way to pull the upset, they’ll be in prime position to compete for a WCC regular season title.
Are the Wildcats a legitimate contender for the NCAA Tournament? We’ll know after this week. Jay Wright has done a tremendous job of getting his team to band together and play as a unit — but they’ve yet to beat a quality team on the road. The 15-9 Wildcats are 6-5 in the Big East and will travel to Cincinnati and UConn in the next six days. We’ll know after this two-game stretch if the Wildcats are a legitimate contender for the field of 68.
The Minutemen are the forgotten team in the Atlantic 10. Derek Kellogg lost his starting shooting guard and best perimeter defender when Jesse Morgan was lost for the season with a torn ACL — and yet Umass is still 6-3 in conference play. Chaz Williams has emerged as one of the most electrifying players in college basketball and he’ll need to be during this team’s next two games. The Minutemen travel to VCU on Thursday (9 PM ET, CBS SPORTS NETWORK) before returning home to Amherst to play Temple on Saturday (6 PM ET, CBS SPORTS NETWORK).
SAN DIEGO STATE
No team in college basketball has a tougher week than the Aztecs.San Diego State travels to both Colorado State and UNLV in a brutal two-game stretch away from Southern California. Steve Fisher’s team finally got point guard Xavier Thames back last weekend against Fresno State, but there’s no telling if his ailing back will allow him to be as effective as he was early in the season. San Diego State’s DeShawn Stephens will have to be a menace on the glass this week, especially on Wednesday against the Rams in Fort Collins (10 PM ET, CBS SPORTS NETWORK). “Colorado State is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country,” Fisher said on Monday. “We’re going to have our hands full.”
Which teams will step up? Be heard in the comments!