Observations: Beating Kansas tonight could save San Diego State’s season

San Diego State needs to come out desperate Tuesday against No. 2 Kansas.

The Jayhawks may have the highest ceiling out of any team in college basketball and would be undefeated heading into Tuesday’s game against the Aztecs if Denzel Valentine hadn’t put Michigan State on his back during the final minutes of the game Nov. 17 at the Champions Classic in Chicago.

Kansas has all the requisites to again win the Big 12 and go to the Final Four, but Tuesday it will play its first true road game of the season against a team that desperately needs to defend its home court.

San Diego State is currently 7-5 after 12 games and has already lost games to San Diego, Grand Canyon, and Arkansas-Little Rock where it failed to score more than 48 points in each of those defeats.

The Aztecs need to come out against the Jayhawks like they’re playing for the right to go to the NCAA Tournament because in a lot of ways they’re staring at a winning lottery ticket.

The best way to offset bad losses at home is to have wins against the best teams in the country and there’s a good chance that Bill Self’s squad will again be in contention for a top-seed in the field of 68 in March.

San Diego State already owns a neutral site win over Cal and beating Kansas would help elevate its potential profile despite several early season setbacks.

This program has always struggled to score under Steve Fisher and that trend continues this season.

The Aztecs only have one player averaging in double-figures and that player is a freshman — Jeremy Hemsley (13.4 points).

For San Diego State to pull an upset Tuesday it needs to do the same things it did when it shocked the Jayhawks two years ago at Phog Allen Fieldhouse: defend, rebound, and make the game into a rock fight of epic proportions.

Tipoff is at 11 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.

Cincinnati’s matchup with Iowa State is a great contrast in styles: Great defense meets great offense in a game that should feature two teams that are jazzed up for different reasons.

The Cyclones are coming off a loss on Saturday to in-state rival Northern Iowa in what was their first defeat of the season and also their first defeat under first-year head coach Steve Prohm.

The Bearcats meanwhile are searching for another marquee victory after Saturday’s six-point win at VCU.

Mick Cronin’s squad has struggled to boast its vintage toughness during the first six weeks of the season, but did yeoman’s work defensively on Saturday against Rams’ guard Melvin Johnson.

The 6-5 guard came into the game against Cincinnati averaging 19.5 points and the Bearcats held Johnson to zero made field goals and just two points. They’ll need a similar effort on that side of the floor Tuesday to slow down an Iowa State team that scores baskets about as often as Cam Newton makes highlight reels on Sundays in the fall.

The Cyclones are averaging 85.0 points this season, but only have seven rotation players following the loss of Naz Mitrou-Long to a season-ending hip injury.

Look for Cronin to try and use his bench to wear down Iowa State as the game wears on, but he’s not going to slow down the Cyclones entirely.

The Bearcats are going to have to score the ball at a somewhat reasonable level to beat one of the elite offensive teams in the sport.

We’ll see if they’re capable of that Tuesday at Fifth Third Arena.

Kay Felder gets his chance to shine Tuesday against Michigan State: Who is Felder?

If you haven’t seen him you’re missing out, but you don’t have to for much longer.

Oakland’s 5-foot-9 point guard is the best player in college basketball that nobody knows about and is coming off a game in which he torched Washington for 38 points, nine assists, and six rebounds.

After the Golden Grizzlies’ win over the Huskies, Washington coach Lorenzo Romar compared him to Boston Celtics’ guard Isaiah Thomas.

Now Felder (25.9 points, 8.9 assists, and 4.7 rebounds) — who has scored 20 or more points in every game he’s played in this season — and his teammates get a chance to slay the giant Tuesday as they take on top-ranked Michigan State on Tuesday at The Palace of Auburn Hills.

Why is this such is a big deal and one of my headlines today?

The last two times these two teams have played at The Palace the Spartans have only beaten the Golden Grizzlies by a combined five points and Michigan State was ranked in the top 10 each time.

Oakland coach Greg Kampe told CBS Sports this week that the game Tuesday is sold out and an industry source told CBS Sports that the Pistons didn’t even sell out this season when they hosted LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Another reason why this game is a big deal?

The Golden Grizzlies are the type of team that can win multiple games in the NCAA Tournament.

Many people have already anointed Valpo as the team to beat in the Horizon League and that’s for good reason, but the Crusaders are going to have their hands full with Oakland.

Kampe has turned the Golden Grizzlies’ program into a mid-major version of Iowa State and has several transfers — Sherron Dorsey-Walker (Iowa State), Percy Gibson (Iowa State), Martez Walker (Texas), and Max Hooper (St. John’s) — that began their careers at high-major programs.

Add Felder and you’ve got a heck of a team.

Kampe has been close to upsetting Michigan State several times in the past, but now he’s got a player that is capable of being the most dangerous player on the floor in crunch time since Denzel Valentine is out with an injury.

Will Felder get that type of opportunity?

We’ll find out Tuesday in Auburn Hills.

Jeremy Hemsley (USATSI)
Freshman Jeremy Hemsley leads the Aztecs in scoring with 13.4 ppg. (USATSI)

This and That

Utah State transfer David Collette has committed to Utah , source told CBS Sports. He will pay his own way during the spring semester and then have two years of eligibility remaining.

Oregon’s Dylan Ennis (foot) hopes to return on Dec. 29 against Western Oregon or on Jan. 3 at Oregon State, Ducks coach Dana Altman told CBS Sports. Ennis has yet to play this season.

This and That

Larry Brown told CBS Sports on Monday that his main concern when he returns to SMU’s bench this week is not getting in the way.

“I’m going to try really hard not to screw this thing up,” Brown said. “Tim Jankovich and his staff have done an unbelievable job. I’ve got to really be careful with this.”

Brown served a nine-game suspension, but will be on the Ponies’ bench when they face Kent State Tuesday in the first round of the Las Vegas Classic. SMU (9-0) will face either Colorado or Penn State on Wednesday.

Duke’s interior defense is going to really suffer without Amile Jefferson, who is out indefinitely with a foot injury. The Blue Devils had no answer in the middle for Utah’s Jakob Poeltl (19 points, 14 rebounds, three blocks) on Saturday and will struggle to defend high level interior players in the ACC. Jefferson isn’t Duke’s best player, but he’s definitely its most valuable player.

Cal better bring its hard hat and helmet Tuesday when it plays Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. The Bears were a Top-10 team to begin the season, but have yet to earn a victory over a team that is a lock to play in the NCAA Tournament. Cuonzo Martin’s squad has talent, but do they have toughness? We’ll know Tuesday against a team that has a real chance to win the ACC regular season title for the third consecutive season.

Cincinnati’s Farad Cobb is starting to hit his stride from long distance. The senior guard has made 11-20 3-point shots in the Bearcats’ last three games and is shooting 47.1 percent from deep on the season. Cobb shot just 33.3 percent from 3-point range a year ago.

Seton Hall’s Angelo Delgado is the best rebounder in the country that nobody talks about. The 6-9 sophomore has had nine or more rebounds in 10 of his 11 games this season. Kevin Willard’s team is currently 9-2 overall heading into Tuesday’s game against South Florida. Delgado is averaging 9.0 points and 10.0 rebounds.

Pitt’s Mike Young is playing like an All-ACC first or second team player. The 6-8 forward is averaging 17.8 points and 7.9 rebounds while shooting a blistering 61.0 percent. Jamie Dixon’s squad is 9-1 overall after Sunday’s 25-point win over Davidson at Madison Square Garden.

A big reason for Saint Joseph’s 8-2 start has been its ability to win close games. Phil Martelli’s squad is 4-0 in games that have been decided by two points or less. The Hawks will face Virginia Tech today at the Barclays Center.

The sleeper game on Tuesday’s loaded college hoops slate? Xavier at Wake Forest. The Musketeers have been arguably the sport’s most impressive team thus far while Danny Manning’s squad made national waves when it beat both Indiana and UCLA in the Maui Invitational. It will be interesting to see how Xavier responds in a true road setting against a capable ACC team.

Penn State’s Payton Banks has quietly been one of the most improved players in the country. The 6-8 forward is averaging 11.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in 29.9 minutes as a sophomore after tallying just 1.7 points and 1.3 rebounds last season in just 8.7 minutes as a freshman. That is called a jump folks.

Dear St. John’s fans: there is only one thing to focus on moving forward this season — recruiting.

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