San Diego State has two remaining regular season games left which include at UNLV on Wednesday and at home on Saturday against New Mexico, who they fell 58-44 in their last meeting. Currently, No. 10 San Diego State and No. 21 New Mexico are tied for first in the Mountain West Conference with a 14-2 record. It’s a definite the Aztecs and Lobos will be the #1 and #2 seeds entering the Mountain West Conference Tournament on March 12-15.
Whoever the winner is from the conference tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. It shouldn’t matter whether San Diego State wins the MWC Tournament since they will most likely be chosen by the NCAA selection committee and have already been projected as a 2-seed by CBS Sports and a 4-seed by ESPN to play in the second round in Spokane, Washington on March 20-22.
Here are five reasons why San Diego State should be feared:
1. Defense. Having the likes of Winston Shepard, Josh Davis, JJ O’Brien, Skylar Spencer, and Dwayne Polee means long arms inside the arc and down towards the basket. The Aztecs lead the MWC in points allowed with 57.3, and are fourth overall in the NCAA. They are 25th overall in blocks per game (5.6), and 41st in steals per game (7.5). The Aztecs like to use full court pressure defense, which could be a danger to opposing teams who don’t handle that kind of pressure well.
2. Depth. The starting five normally consists of Xavier Thames, Shepard, Spencer, O’Brien, and Davis. Head coach Steve Fisher does a nice job rotating his starting roster with a strong bench of Aqeel Quinn, Matt Shrigley, and Polee who each have had big games of their own. Junior guard Quinn tied his career high of 17 points (11 by half-time) and had four 3-pointers in San Diego State’s win over Fresno State. Redshirt freshman forward Shrigley had a career high of 15 points in San Diego State’s win against Utah State, and has had 26 points in his last three games (8.7 points per game). And junior forward Polee sunk that unforgettable 3-pointer with four seconds left to give the Aztecs a comeback win over Boise State. Polee has also recorded seven double-digit scoring performances so far this season. Thames leads the team with 23 double-digit scoring games this season, followed by Shepard with 21.
3. Rebounding. Offensively and defensively, San Diego State ranks second in the MWC averaging 38.6 rebounds per game on both sides of the court. Nationally, they are ranked 27th overall in offensive rebounding (13.3 per game) and 75th overall in defensive rebounding (25.3 per game). Only two teams ahead of No. 10 San Diego State in the AP Top 25 rank higher in offensive rebounding, Wichita State (25th) and Arizona (20th). Both Wichita State and Arizona rank higher in defensive rebounding as well, along with Villanova (53rd) and Kansas (27th). One of the Aztecs’ best assets is the ability to attack the glass by converting offensive rebounds into second chance points.
4. Travel well. The Aztecs are 11-2 on the road so far this season, and are known to travel well both in their conference and nationally. In its last 46 road games, San Diego State is 33-13. In its last 43 road games against unranked teams, they are 35-8. In their last 34 games played during the month of March, the Aztecs are 25-9. Having past success in March and traveling well makes San Diego State a tough team to beat on the road in March Madness.
5. Coaching. It’s been noticed, commented on, and applauded by many across the country on Steve Fisher’s tremendous job and work he’s done on San Diego State’s basketball program. Also, hats off to Associate Head Coach Brian Dutcher, who was hired by Fisher in 1999 and has been a key figure in some of San Diego State’s recruits and transfers. Fisher’s first year as head coach was 15 seasons ago where the Aztecs record was 5-23 in the 1999-2000 regular season. Since then, San Diego State has had six NCAA appearances (2002, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013) with four straight from 2010-2013. This season, the Aztecs are 25-3 overall which is the fifth time in school history that San Diego State has won at least 25 games in a single season and all within the past six seasons under Fisher. They have also tied the school record for most conference victories with 14 (14-2 in 2010-11), and have a chance to surpass the school record with two MWC games left in the season. Fisher has been named as one of the 10 finalists for the Henry Iba National Coach of the Year Award for 2014. He won both the Naismith College Coach of the Year and NABC Coach of the Year awards in 2011.
Photo by Kent Horner/Getty Images Sport.
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