They both took care of business with wins and covers as first-round favorites. Now the San Diego State Aztecs
and Temple Owls will lace up their sneakers for Saturday's matchup to decide who heads to Anaheim next week as part of the West Region's Sweet 16 field.
TNT will broadcast Saturday's contest from McHale Center in Tucson starting a little past 3:10 p.m. (PT). The Aztecs are six-point favorites with 125-126 for the game total on the Don Best odds screen.
If Temple is going to pull the outright upset, the Owls will become just the second team to take down SDSU this season. Both of the Aztecs' losses came at the hands of Jimmer Fredette and the BYU Cougars during the regular season, something Steve Fisher's squad avenged with a 72-54 shellacking of the Cougars in the Mountain West Tournament Championship Game. Ranked in the top 10 of both polls since just before Christmas, the MWC title lifted the Aztecs to a 2-seed in the West Region.
San Diego State (33-2 straight up, 21-12 against the spread) took care of business in its Thursday opener with another 18-point triumph, knocking off Northern Colorado 68-50 as 14½-point chalk. Kawhi Leonard posted his 23rd double-double of the campaign with a team-best 21 points along with 10 boards. Billy White also enjoyed twin perks on the stat sheet with 12 points and 13 rebounds.
Fisher's crew let the Bears hang around for the first 25 minutes or so of the game, thanks in large part to Devon Beitzel's game-high 25. James Rahon helped the Aztecs kick it in gear with nine of his 12 points in the final 13 minutes.
The 'under' 130 cashed easily, the fourth low-side winner in SDSU's last five games.
Temple (26-7 SU, 17-15-1 ATS) had to battle back from an early nine-point deficit to nip Penn State on Juan Fernandez's late jumper, 66-64. Fernandez scored the Owls' final four points on his way to a season-high 23, teammate Ramone Moore matching that point tally for Temple who won the game on 13-of-15 shooting from the line while Penn State converted 4-of-6 free throws.
Early backers of the Owls got in on a cover laying 1½ points before the line closed at two for an official 'push.' It was a relatively easy win for 'over' 118½-point bettors, the fourth time in the last five Owls games to jump the total.
The win stopped an 11-game NCAA Tournament losing skid for Temple head coach Fran Dunphy, a skid that started while he was running another Big 5 program at Penn.
San Diego State's victory over Northern Colorado was its very first at the dance, leaving the Aztecs 1-3 now in NCAA Tournament games under Fisher. That mark should improve to 2-3 once the horn sounds at the end of this matchup.
The key number in this one is 20, as in San Diego State winning its 20th away from home this season and picking up its 20th 'under' for totals bettors. Aztecs 65-56.