Well, that dreaded time of year is back again. The San Diego State Aztecs got knocked out in the round of 32’s on Sunday, March 22. They were picked apart by Duke 68-49.
Not to sound pessimistic but the Aztecs’ deficiencies were apparent in the loss against a very talented Duke team. The Aztecs shot a measly 32.8% from the field and just 2-13 from behind the arc.
But lets not dwell on the past. Let us take a second and review the good and bad from this season and outlook for next season.
The Aztecs offense was ranked nearly at the bottom in just about every statistical category. In fact, the only category that they weren’t ranked below 150 was total rebounds per game (131). They averaged 35.2 rebounds per game.
The rest of the stats
Points per game 61.8 305th
Assists per game 10.6 304th
Field goal percentage 41.9 263rd
Three point percentage 32.0% 276th
Free throw percentage 63.0% 331
The big reason for the plummeting offense was mostly to do with the lack of identity. The Aztecs didn’t get consistent production from their starters including junior forward Winston Shepard. It seemed like when his shots weren’t going in he lost confidence. But instead of driving the lane and attacking the basket he chose to stay outside and keep taking poor shots.
But it isn’t fair to place the blame solely on Shepard. Many other things contributed to the poor offensive production.
Matt Shrigley and Aqeel Quinn also added fuel to the fire. They led the team in three point attempts Quinn (148) and Shrigely (126). They combined for almost 50% of all shots taken from behind the arc. Neither of them shot better than 37% from the perimeter.
The next part was the lack of ball movement as you can see by the underwhelming 10.6 assists per game.
This isn’t even worth mentioning if you followed the Aztecs through out the season you know that they were horrendous at the free throw line converting just 63%.
On the bright side….
Winston showed flashes of talent on the offensive end. He scored 15 points or more 9 times this season and the Aztecs went 7-2 during that time.
Also we saw promise from freshman’s Trey Kell and Malik Pope. They seemed to be very in sync and the offense arguably better when those two were in versus to the starting line up.
The Aztecs’ defense was the cornerstone of the team. They ranked in the top 90 in all major statistical categories except for one, defensive rebounds (225) averaging 23.1 per game. But that didn’t seem to matter as the Aztecs had the second best scoring defense in the nation 53.9 points per game.
Rest of the stats
Blocks per game 5.0 27th
Steals per game 6.9 87th
Field Goal percentage 38.4% 9th
Three point percentage 30.3 T-17th
The Aztecs just seemed more cohesive on the defensive end. They always asserted themselves and made the opposing team feel their presence. They were a down right nightmare for the opposition.
You can credit most of the defenses success to one of the more underrated Aztecs Skylar Spencer. He is the undisputed rim protector for the Aztecs and also the all-time leader in blocked shots in San Diego State School History with 231 and the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
Another phase of the game the Aztecs exceeded at was causing turnovers. JJ O’Brien and Dwayne Polee led the team in steals with 1.4 per game.
Lastly, you gotta give a final shout out to the “The Show” they were ranked number one for the best home crowd in the nation. They are like the 12th man for the Seattle Seahawks. Or to put into basketball terms the sixth man on the court.
The Aztecs will be losing three impact players on the team O’Brien, Quinn, and Polee. These guys were the leaders of the team and their presence will be missed.
But there is still a lot to look forward to.
Malik Pope has indicated he is looking to return next season even with all the buzz surrounding him in this years NBA draft.
Trey Kell will have a year under his belt and will have more freedom to take shots next year.
Zylan Cheathem will be back and healthy after sitting out of the year from a broken foot.
The only uncertainty is Winston Shepard as he sounded unsure of his plans for next year according to UT San Diego.
It will be interesting how next season will unfold with all the untapped potential this team has.
Photo Credit: Daiki Sato/ Sports Out West
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