The player you should be watching
You look at college basketball's most dominant big men, and there's a name we should add to the list.
Nevada forward Nick Fazekas is, unnoticed by many, having a tremendous all-around season. Fazekas was good last season as a freshman, averaging 12.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game, but has made the transition to great after the departure of WAC star guard Kirk Snyder.
If you look west of the Kansas Jayhawks and Wayne Simien, there are three legitimate superstar big men, and you could make an argument that Fazekas is as valuable to his team as the others are to theirs.
Rocking the Rim
Spotlight on team trends
It's late February, and it's about this time of year that you can eliminate a couple hundred basketball teams from the conversation as things start to take shape just before conference postseason play.
Every season, there are a few teams you don't think you should be talking about, yet there they are, right in the thick of things.
Among the majors, that team is fairly easily identifiable -- Iowa State, which despite a recent bump at Texas A&M, has played terrifically recently. Drop down a level, and while the Atlantic-10 is unimpressive, there's a Jameer Nelson-less Saint Joseph's up at the top of the standings. Then, drop to the mid-majors and Davidson has to enter the conversation, since the Wildcats are among a dwindling number of league unbeatens.
Actions will speak louder than words in the next few weeks, but these are some teams that might get talked up a little bit.
Matchup note of the week
A closer look at key games
From 1991 to 1998, Kentucky beat Alabama 10 straight times, but since then neither team has had the upper hand.
The teams have split the last six meetings, and both are coming off recent stumbles heading into what looms as a nice measuring stick for the SEC's top two teams.
In the bonus
A look at some of college basketball's hidden gems
One of our favorite tasks each week is to go through the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 coaches' poll and look not at the top but at the bottom.
One of the things that's always neat to check out is each week's "One-Vote Wonders," those teams that one, and only one, coach felt was worthy of the last spot on the ballot.
This week, we couldn't help but notice that there's a potential debate brewing between two voters as to the best team in Louisiana. LSU had one vote, but so did the Ragin' Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette, which left us wondering whether we needed to learn a little bit more about the perennial Sun Belt leaders (who were not among those featured in Bracket Buster last week).
Our primary question was: What makes this team, at 17-8 overall, 11-2 in league play, ballot-worthy?
"Probably that we've won 11 of our last 12 in this stretch," first-year head coach Robert Lee said. "We've also probably played the toughest mid-major schedule out there. We've played LSU, Kansas, Southern Illinois and NC State. I would think that if you saw us, you'd be impressed with our athleticism. I feel that our athleticism can match anyone besides North Carolina and Kansas. We play very exciting basketball."
The Ragin' Cajuns got swamped against a few of the opponents that Lee mentioned, but there's a feeling, at least from one person, that Louisiana-Lafayette is a dangerous team. That might be because ULL starts five upperclassmen, including four transfers -- Orien Greene from Florida (a former Mr. Basketball in that state, who missed five weeks earlier this season with a leg injury), Brian Hamilton from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Dwayne Mitchell from Auburn and Tiras Wade from East Tennessee State.
That quartet ranges in height from 6-foot-4 to 6-6 and has combined for about 67 percent of the team's points. Wade leads the team in scoring at 19.5 ppg, and all four average double figures in points. Hamilton has been the most impressive player recently. Mitchell has shown dramatic improvement at the free-throw line, where he has made 76 percent of his attempts in his last seven games after going through the first 18 games at just 52 percent.
The team might lack depth, but it historically has been strong -- regardless who is on the floor. Louisiana-Lafayette is the only team in league history to win 10 or more league games in six straight seasons and has made four postseason appearances in the last five seasons. The Ragin' Cajuns might feel as though they're lacking respect from their league peers, but perhaps the power of one will change that.
"Our theme for the year is 'Leave No Doubt,' Lee said. "We want to leave no doubt that we're the best team in this league."
Mark Simon is a researcher for ESPN's college basketball coverage and Baseball Tonight.