Tomorrow night the highly anticipated matchup between the San Diego State Aztecs (15-4, 5-1 Mountain West) and the Colorado State Rams (17-2, 4-2 Mountain West) tips off at 7 p.m. Pacific Time.
The Rams were the big dogs heading into conference play, boasting an unblemished 13-0 record, albeit against lackluster opposition.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Aztecs headed into conference play as the artist formally known as big dog, holding a 10-3 record with two unbecoming losses (at Washington and at Cincinnati) that indicated they weren't the team 34 of 35 voters at MW media days thought they were.
Things are a little different now -- a little.
CSU now appears to be mortal after losses at New Mexico and against Wyoming, and after allowing Air Force to score 59 points in one half. J.J. Avila is still the stud we all knew he'd be entering this season, averaging 15 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists and almost two steals while shooting more than 50 percent per game.
But the rest of this Rams roster is stepping up on offense, too, with four players scoring more than 10 points per game and two players not to far from that mark. Larry Eustachy's squad runs the 67th-most efficient offense, according to the respected Ken Pomeroy statistic.
His defense, on the other hand, isn't so pretty; it's the 92nd-most efficient Ken Pomeroy defense.
The Rams' defense is a little peculiar in the sense that it can look water-tight during certain games and hopelessly porous during others.
For instance, CSU held an scoring-maching Boise State team to just 65 points, and it limited Nevada and San Jose State to 42 and 41 points, respectively.
On the other hand, the Rams almost lost an in-state game against Denver when they allowed the 269th-best scoring offense in the country to pile 84 points on the scoreboard. And you already know about Air Force's 59-point half.
The moral of the story is one never truly knows which CSU defense will show up. But there's significant reason to Rams fans to be hopeful tomorrow night: CSU allows just 53.7 points per home game so far in conference play.
The Aztecs haven't exactly fallen in love with Fort Collins, dropping two of their last three games in the Rams' house.
It's very hard to bet against Ken Pomeroy's second-most efficient defense in the country, though, which SDSU boasts along with its four-game winning streak, including a 60-52 win at then-No. 25 Wyoming.
If the Rams dictate the pace of the game and make it a fast up-and-down sprint, CSU has the edge. If the Aztecs can slow the game down and force the Rams to eat up shot clock on each possession, they'll win their fifth straight conference game.