Weekend stock watch: La Salle validates itself as an NCAA tournament contender

During a weekend that featured everything from buzzer beaters to bat attacks, there were plenty of noteworthy results as well. Here's a look at whose stock has risen and fallen with an emphasis on teams we haven't covered extensively already this weekend in previous posts:

Stock up: Big Five teams

If beating two top five teams in four days earns Villanova team of the week honors in college hoops, then the runner-up is another team from Philly. La Salle toppled the two best teams in the Atlantic 10 in back-to-back games, beating Butler at the buzzer on Wednesday night and winning a game of runs at VCU three nights later. Ramon Galloway was the hero in both games, scoring the game-winning layup against the Bulldogs and torching the Rams for 31 points. Those two victories and a non-league win over Villanova give La Salle (14-5, 4-2) its best chance in years to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in more than two decades. The backcourt of Galloway and Tyreek Duren is lethal enough for the Explorers to finish near the top of the Atlantic 10.

Stock down: Top five teams

Even before prospective new No. 1 Michigan faces Illinois on Sunday in Champaign, top five teams already lost four games this week. Miami pounded No. 1 Duke by 27 points. Syracuse lost in overtime at Villanova. The most worrisome is Louisville, however, which has now dropped three straight games after following last week's loss to Syracuse with surprising setbacks against Villanova and Georgetown. In that three-game losing streak, Louisville has been less dominant than usual defensively and downright inept on offense. They were especially putrid against Georgetown, sinking just 34.8 percent of their shots, with a foul-plagued Peyton Siva going scoreless with just one assist.

Stock up: San Diego State as a Mountain West contender

If it looked as though the Aztecs might not have what it takes to contend in the Mountain West after losses to UNLV and Wyoming last week, they showed moxie by bouncing back with a pair of solid wins this week. They thumped Nevada on the road Wednesday night and sent a message to first-place New Mexico on Saturday with a suffocating defensive performance in a 55-34 home win. New Mexico's frontcourt of Alex Kirk, Chad Adams and Cameron Bairstow, expected to be the strength of the team against guard-heavy San Diego State, shot a combined 2 of 14 from the field and got beaten on the glass. The New Mexico backcourt wasn't much help either as the Lobos scored their fewest points in a game since 1976 and shot 25 percent as a team, their worst since at least 1965, per the Albuquerque Journal.

[Related: A case for Kansas at No. 1]

Stock down: A five or six-bid Mountain West

The Mountain West's chances of landing more than four teams in the NCAA tournament this season probably depend on either Wyoming or Boise State (or both) separating themselves from the conference's lower tier. Saturday did not help that cause whatsoever as Air Force upset the Cowboys in Laramie 57-48 and Boise State lost 75-58 at Nevada. There's time for Wyoming (15-4, 2-4) and Boise State (14-5, 2-3) to recover from these losses, but both have fallen to No. 55 and No. 61, respectively, in the RPI. What seems to be happening right now is New Mexico, UNLV, San Diego State and Colorado State are separating themselves from the rest of the league. If that trend continues, look for those four teams to be the Mountain West's NCAA tournament representatives for a second straight season.

Stock up: Arizona State

If it was easy to discount Arizona State's strong non-conference performance because of a lack of notable wins, then a strong start to Pac-12 play is making the Sun Devils much more difficult to ignore. Arizona State moved into a third-place tie in the Pac-12 at 5-2 by pounding visiting UCLA 78-60. Granted the Bruins were without top big man Travis Wear and clearly experienced a post-Arizona letdown, but give Arizona State credit for taking advantage. Jahii Carson exploited the Bruins matador defense off the dribble and Jordan Bachynski overpowered the undermanned UCLA frontcourt. Bachynski finished with 22 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks as the Sun Devils improved to 16-4 overall and moved closer to cracking the top 50 in the RPI.

Stock down: Minnesota

On Dec. 31, after Minnesota's victory over Michigan State, I wrote it would be "shocking" if this Gophers team continued its recent trend of collapsing in Big Ten play. Well, consider me "shocked" then. Minnesota lost for the fourth straight time on Saturday, falling by one point at Wisconsin. The slide has to be rough on the Gophers psychologically because they've seen this happen too many times before. Last season, Minnesota started 12-1 but dropped its first four Big Ten games en route to a 6-12 league record and an NIT berth. The year before, the Gophers spoiled an 11-1 start by dropping three of their first four league games en route to another 6-12 finish.

Stock up: Montana

In a battle for first place in the Big Sky Conference, Montana edged visiting Weber State 76-74 behind 28 points from standout guard Will Cherry. The Grizzlies, 14-4 overall and 10-0 in Big Sky play, now hold a two-game lead on the Wildcats. They also haven't lost a league game since Jan. 14, 2012 at Weber State.

Stock down: Murray State

It's looking more and more like Murray State won't be the favorites to win the Ohio Valley tournament this March. Whereas Belmont remains unbeaten in conference play despite playing in the tougher half of the OVC, Murray State dropped its second league game on Saturday, falling by one at Jacksonville State.

Stock up: Tommy Brenton

In a 79-69 victory over Maine, the Stony Brook senior notched the program's first triple-double since it moved up to Division I in 1999. Brenton finished with 15 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, a performance that showcases the versatility that has become his trademark.

[Breakfast Buffet: The game-winning shot that wasn't]

Stock down: Charlotte

George Washington is 4-2 in the Atlantic 10, so maybe the Colonials are a little better than expected this season. Nonetheless, a Charlotte team with NCAA tournament aspirations cannot fall 82-54 on the road at the No. 128 RPI team in the nation.

Stock up: NC State fans

Credit Wolfpack fans for three reasons Saturday: They were loud from tipoff until the final buzzer during NC State's victory over North Carolina, they resisted the urge to rush the court after a victory over their rival and they had some hilarious signs in the crowd. I got a chuckle over this and this in particular.

Stock down: Alabama

Whatever momentum Alabama gained with four straight SEC wins including a victory over Kentucky, it gave right back Saturday night with a brutal loss at Tennessee. Trevor Lacey couldn't get a shot off as time expired and the Tide fell 54-53, not the type of result they can afford if they hope to make an NCAA tournament push.

Ramon Galloway was lethal with 31 points for La Salle.

Read More: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/college-basketball/news/20130126/saturday-night-hoops-roundup/#ixzz2JBSHwZnx

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