SDSU Basketball Keep Rollin… Thames on Fire

Xavier Thames Ranked 16th in the NCAA in 3-pt FG %
Xavier Thames Continues to produce as SDSU’s lead man

San Diego State University’s Mens’ Basketball team wins both of this weeks’ match-ups, improving to 7-1.

SDSU is continuing to stay hot behind 5th-year Senior PG Xavier Thames. With a favorable schedule over the next couple of weeks, the Aztecs could be looking ahead to Kansas with an 11-1 record.

It has not come easy though.

On Thursday night, the Aztecs saw a tough matchup verse University San Diego in a cross-city battle at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

SDSU seemed to have control of the game through the majority of the second half, but seemingly could not put the Toreros away. USD always seems to play tough, as SDSU had dropped 4 of 6 all time at the Pavilion.

State’s shooting from the field seemed to be cold in the first half, and they had plenty of opportunities to put the game away. San Diego native Johnny Dee led the Toreros with 22 pts, hitting plenty of threes to keep USD alive.

It took a 3-pt miss as time expired for SDSU to preserve the win. A win is a win though. Xavier Thames led the way for the Aztecs with 17 pts and got help from Winston Shepard and other role players.

Xavier Thames has been the most consistent scorer for the Aztecs this season.

When SDSU has been cold from the field to start the last few games, Xavier Thames would break that ice. He led the Aztecs with 19 points verse the Washington Huskies to help get the W.

Xavier has been playing extremely well all season. He consistently makes clutch shots, and is developing into a real go-to playmaker for the Aztecs. He currently ranks #16 in the entire NCAA for 3-pt FG% at 56.7.%. Although he may not be able to keep this up, the help of our big men and role players has really helped out.

Winston Shepard has also been coming alive of late scoring 17 points Sunday, and 14 on Thursday against San Diego. He keeps showing his talents and potential, and is really coming along with the mid-range jump shot.

Winston hit his last 5/6 free throws in the closing seconds verse the Huskies to put the game away.

Another key contributor against Washington was Skylar Spencer. Coming off a 12 pt 6 reb game verse the Toreros, Skylar added 6 pts and a career high 5 blocks verse Washington. Last year, Spencer set a Mountain West Freshman record for blocks, and continues to show his defensive skills. Further developing Skylar’s offensive game may be key to Steve Fisher and the 2013-14 Aztecs.

Against Washington the Aztecs played with a lot of size.

They often played a O’Brien-Spencer-Davis line up as the 3-4-5. Putting O’Brien at the Small Forward position presents huge matchup problems for teams, and will be extremely beneficial in Mountain West Conference play.

J.J. Obrien has not been too hot of late, but that is mainly attributed to his injured right hand. It has not been made public what his exact injury is. He had a very poor offensive performance against the Toreros, going 0/10 from the field, and continued that against Washington starting 1/8. You can tell he is very limited with the injury, but his size and defensive presence make all the difference. Once we get J.J. back on board, Aztecs should see their offensive woes clear up.

Looking forward, SDSU plays 3 very beatable teams at home before opening up Mountain West play at Colorado St. Following the Colorado St. game, the Aztecs travel to the Allen Fieldhouse to play Kansas. Even though it is 4 games ahead, SDSU could see themselves 11-1 in a decent matchup vs #6 Kansas.

SDSU seems to be in line for yet another exciting season!

SDSU Men’s Basketball Deserves Respect

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San Diego State University Men’s Basketball team has been on the rise over the last 4 season. They have made it to the NCAA Tournament in each of those 4 seasons and have been ranked the last 3. Not to mention, Steve Fisher has led the Aztecs to 8 straight 20-win seasons.

2010-11 Season saw the Aztecs ranked in the Top-10 nearly all season. The Kawhi Leonard lead Aztecs only sustained 3 losses, leading the team to a school record for 34 wins. There first 2 losses were to BYU, only to be avenged in the MWC Tournament, and the third loss was to UConn who went on to win the tournament.

My point is, SDSU lacks respect among the East-Coast bias that is NCAA Basketball and the rankings.

After losing Kawhi Leonard, the Aztecs were not ranked in the pre season. It was supposed to be a ‘rebuilding’ year. Even with all those expectations, or the lack there-of, Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, and Xavier Thames came to show they were meant to be back in the tournament.

Last year they were in and out of the top 25 all season. They were a FGCU loss away from making their second Sweet-16 in 3 seasons.

Moving onto the 2013-14 season, SDSU has been getting no love. Only after back-to-back wins verse rank teams did the Aztecs crack the exclusive Top 25. After two big wins in 3 days, and the resume that Steve Fisher has built in recent years, SDSU enters the Top 25 at #24… 24?!?!

Last week they were not even among the category “other teams getting votes.” No one even considered SDSU. Only after back to back wins verse ranked teams do they get ranked. Look at the Coaches Poll, they are not even ranked. How are we not ranked in the Coaches Poll? Doesn’t the name “Steve Fisher” sell itself? I thought at least the coaches would respect Fisher and company.

This year so far our body of work suggests a ranked team. We are 5-1 with 2 wins vs ranked teams and our only loss coming to #2 Arizona, who we played tough at home. San Diego State’s resume as a program coming into this season would suggest writers and coaches would have respect for what we have done and what we are capable of at this moment in time.

Coaches and Poll Voters biggest doubts are probably because of the loss of Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. I think that is exactly why we are playing so well this season. We are transitioning very well because we have many role players on the team.

First of all, Xavier Thames was solid two seasons ago. Last year he was injured most of the season and that hurt us. This year he is healthy and has played stellar, especially in the Wooden Legacy, winning MVP honors.

J.J. Obrien ended last season playing very well and has continued that season. He seems to always be good for 12 pts and 7 rebounds. He is a starter and does his job.

Winston Shepard has been the key to the transition. Last year he had a very limited role. This year Steve Fisher has let him play and grow similar to how he handled Jamaal Franklin and his wildness. Winston has been good at times, but is often sloppy. He is continuing to get better as a former McDonalds 5-star recruit, and his mid-range jump shot is tremendous. There are a lot of good things to come out of him.

We have bunch of role players. Dwayne Pollee and Dakari Allen have been good additions as scorers and Josh Davis has been killing the boards with Skylar Spencer getting blocks. Pollee was supposed to be Mountain West Newcomer of the year last year, and is finally making an impact. Josh Davis has a great deal of potential and is still getting into his groove as a scorer, but is playing solid defense and is a rebound machine.

Just as Steve Fisher said, SDSU just needs to keep winning and keep proving to the nation that they deserve their spot in the top 25.

Padres Trade Luke Gregerson for Seth Smith

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Looks like the Padres are farming away their players again.

Luke Gregerson has been a shut down 8th in set up man for the Padres for the past couple years. He has played well in his limited role, so the Padres will miss him.

San Diego has generally done pretty well developing bullpen pitchers, so they should be fine.

With Seth Smith we get a shifty outfielder. He reminds me a lot like a majority of our utility outfielders. He has some strengths and some weaknesses and probably should not be thought of as a guy you lean on. He has some power that makes up for his .265 career batting average. He will give the Padres a majority of starts and between 10-15 homeruns. 

He might just be a role player on a team that tries to get their first winning season since 2010.

What we’ve learned – 2013 San Diego Chargers

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The Chargers are in a rebuilding season.

With a new coaching staff and GM, there are a lot of expectations.

With drafting DJ Fluker, Manti Te’o, and Keenan Allen with the first 3 picks, Telesco covered some of our biggest needs. Head Coaches and General Managers should be given a 2-year grace period before you really judge their body of work. In other words, you cannot expect a team to be fixed with one draft.

All three of these draft picks have contributed to the team in a starting role. DJ Fluker has been great on the offensive line, especially in the run game.  He has shown you he is going to be a center piece for this offensive line for years to come. Keenan Allen has been an absolute stud on offense and is emerging as a true number 1 receiver earning Rivers’ trust. And lastly, Manti Te’o has struggled at times, but overall shown improvement. He has been getting a lot of reps for a rookie and it will take some time for him to adjust into the NFL at the ILB position.

D J Fluker

McCoy and staff are starting all three of these players, which is expecting a lot out of a draft class. Telesco decided to go this route by cutting ties with many veteran players. This has allowed his young players to start growing and building now, instead of hanging onto a couple of players who are on there way out anyways.

Defense

The San Diego Chargers defense has been an absolute disaster all season. They have been devastated from injuries, but that is no excuse. Their depth is non existent and it shows with their linebacker corp.

In a 3-4 Defense, OLBs play an enormous role. They are generally the lead pass rusher coming off the edge. With Melvin Ingram on IR before the preseason, Jarrett Johnson always on the Injury Report, and the Dwight Freeney experiment failing, we have realized our OLB depth is very weak. This flaw on the defense can really be connected to all of the problems on defense.

Dwight Freeney on IR
Dwight Freeney on IR

No pass rush means opposing WRs have plenty of time to get open and this hurts our Defensive Backs. Everyone knows this though, so that’s not an excuse. And that is exactly why I will not excuse Derek Cox for his awful play. Even with as good of a draft Telesco had, this Free Agent Signing was nothing short of a bust. Telesco will have to seriously rethink his Cornerbacks in the 2014 offseason.

Derek Cox getting burned
Derek Cox getting burned

I think we also learned that Eric Weddle cannot do everything. He is getting a lot of tackles this season, but he is not the All-Pro we have seen in the past. He is being forced to cover a lot more this season and he has been getting anihilated by some Tight Ends. He got burned repeatedly against Washington Redskins Tight End Jordan Reed.

Jordan Reed diving for a 1st down breaking Eric Weddle's tackle
Jordan Reed diving for a 1st down breaking Eric Weddle’s tackle

With that said about Weddle, he is definitely the leader of our Defense and we are happy to have him. I actually think Marcus Gilchrist has shown a lot of potential at times and may have solidified himself as the starter next year. We have not seen even a lick of former LSU Tiger Brandon Taylor.

Finishing off our defense, our Defensive Ends in Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes have continued to show their potential. Their growth has been stunted a little bit with the weak OLB play and really no true Nose Tackle to take up defenders. Cam Thomas should be nothing more than a backup DT when the Chargers switch to 4 down linemen on certain plays.

Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes on the bench
Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes on the bench

Running Game/RBs:

Ryan Mathews is having a solid season. You have to attribute a great deal of his success to the offensive line coach and what they have done there. As said before, Fluker has done a great job in the run game. Many of Mathews big runs are right behind Fluker as he levels people. Furthermore, when Clary has played as a guard it suits his strengths in the run game.

Ryan Mathews runs for 51 yard gain vs the Dolphins
Ryan Mathews runs for 51 yard gain vs the Dolphins

McCoy and company are actually showing some trust in Mathews, and it is finally paying off for him getting some redzone carries. This is very important for Mathews’ confidence moving forward. You can see him finally being trusted and incorporated in the passing game as well. I think Mathews has proven this season he should be our ‘feature’ back on 1st and 2nd downs. Mathews is on pace for about 1,050 rushing yards, 2nd 1000 yd season in 3 years. For the Chargers to move forward with him, he will have to probably not take a big ‘Top 10 RB’ contract.

Danny Woodhead has been an excellent pickup this offseason. He has filled the void that has been there ever since Sproles left. He is no where near the playmaker Sproles is, but he definitely has similar characteristics that make him explosive. He is shifty in the running game, but more importantly a great outlet for Rivers in the passing game. Woodhead continuously gets mismatches for big gains in the passing game as well. He has over 800 all purpose yards and 7 TDs this season. Woodhead has been a huge asset to this offensive and is a big reason for Rivers league leading 70.0% completion percentage.

Danny Woodhead scores a TD vs the Cowboys
Danny Woodhead scores a TD vs the Cowboys

Woodhead was only signed to a 2-year deal, but I think this season we have learned Woodhead may be a keeper.

Receiving Corp/TEs

We have had some pleasant surprises and some not so pleasant surprises.

First of all, we already talked about Keenan Allen. He has been an absolute bright spot with Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out. His 58 Receptions and 843 yards lead all rookies and are flat out impressive considering he did not start getting production until week 5. We have learned this guy is going to be a stud for years to come.

Keenan Allen catches TD Pass from Philip Rivers vs. the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night
Keenan Allen catches TD Pass from Philip Rivers vs. the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night

Eddie Royal has been quite suprising with his 7 TDs, but he is inconsistent and is really just a #3 receiver. He has over acheived. With that said, Vincent Brown has greatly underachieved in my mind. He has dropped numerous passes, looked scared at times not fighting for balls in the middle of the field, and has also just not read defenses the same way as Rivers. The Chargers have really hurt for #2  WR production, especially in the redzone, and Vincent Brown has been a disappointment.

This disappointment is compounded with the idea that many people thought and expected Brown to have a breakout season. In 2011 when Brown was a rookie, he ended the season playing exceptionally well. 2012 came and he broke his ankle pretty nasty in a preseason game.  This year he came back and we thought we would see the same down-the-field play we saw in 2011. Not so much. Maybe he feels overshadowed by Keenan. We have learned that Vincent Brown may not be with us in the next couple of years unless he can prove to us next year.

Ladarius Green has been an absolute stud when he has played. Many Chargers fans saw him last year and throughout this year and have been like “wow who is that guy? He is good!!” I remember hearing people saying he was being groomed to be the heir to Gates. It seems true. With Royal out the last couple weeks, Green has been getting more playing time and really has been ‘unleashed’. Gates is still getting plenty of snaps as the Chargers have been running 2-TE sets. This is better for the run game as well and Green has been taking advantage of Gates getting double teamed.

Ladarius Green makes catch vs the Dolphins
Ladarius Green makes catch vs the Dolphins

Other notes of WRs:

We learned Rivers truly misses Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd. Both of those players strengths are stretching the field and going for the long ball. Even with the emergence of Keenan Allen, Rivers really does not have a deep threat. In the past this has been Rivers strength. Just imagine what San Diego would look like with these 2 guys and Keenan Allen.

Danario Alexander making a 1-handed TD catch vs. the Broncos
Danario Alexander making a 1-handed TD catch vs. the Broncos

Philip Rivers’ Resurgence

Many analysts are saying “Rivers is back”. I say he never left.

The talent has always been there. We know what he is capable of. Last year Philip Rivers was sacked second most in the league (49 times).  Whats peculiar is in 2012 his turnovers went down from 2011, but in 2011 he only had 30 sacks.

Either way, Chargers are 4th in the league in Sacks allowed. Meaning Rivers being sacked only 22 times is exceptionally better than last years 49. The offensive line coach must be thanked again for the successes on offense.

Ken Whisenhunt’s offense has worked very well for Rivers and Telesco’s Danny Woodhead signing was also huge for Rivers. Whisenhunt has incorporated this short passing game and it has done wonders for Rivers completion percentage.

Rivers also looks a lot different in the pocket. He has always stepped up well, but he has been moving around a lot more and has ran away from numerous sacks this season. He is definitely a pocket passer, but he has made strides this year in picking up yards with his feet. He is rushing 3.6 yards per carry which is up from his previous career high of 2.7. This shows he trusts his feet a little more to pick up a few yards here and there.

Philip Rivers calling out Defense at the line
Philip Rivers calling out Defense at the line

Rivers definitely misses his deep threats, but has made due with what he has. He has complete command of his offense. He has now been given more power in the offense and changes plays and reads defenses regularly. Reading defenses has been something Rivers has always excelled at, but this year he is playing extremely well. He has also greatly reduced his turnovers. Rivers should definitely be a Pro-Bowler this year if not an All-Pro. In my eyes, we have learned that Rivers still has a little bit of a window and should stay out QB for 5-6 years.

Conclusion

Chargers have been in most of there games this season and you can attribute one or two plays to every loss. With a couple additional players next year they will be better. They have good things to come with an elite offense, and have plenty of room to grow on defense.

NFL Week 14 Predictions

This is my first public prediction post of many to come. I have generally been pretty good.

Here we go:

Houston @ Jacksonville

Jadeveon Clowney beasting...
Jadeveon Clowney beasting…Teddy Bridgewater possible 1st overall pick in 2014 NFL Draft
Teddy Bridgewater possible 1st overall pick in 2014 NFL Draft

Although some may think of this as the race for the number 1 pick, the NFL is about pride. I think Houston’s Defense has a lot of pride and shuts the lowly Jaguars down.

Houston 20 Jacksonville 10

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati

From a fantasy persepctive, I don’t think this will be a good game for Andrew luck. The Bengals can feel the heat of the Ravens coming for the AFC North, and I think this game will rely on the play of Andy Dalton. This game should have Playoff atmosphere, but I feel the Bengals will let one slip after getting a big win in San Diego last week.

Indianapolis 23 Cincinnati 20

Detroit @ Philly

I just do not think Kevin Foles streak can continue. The Lions have a stout defense and coming off that momentum building win against the Packers I can see them going into Philly and coming out with a W.

Detroit 34 Philly 27

New York Giants @ San Diego Chargers

Eli Manning selected 1st overall by San Diego Chargers in 2004
Eli Manning selected 1st overall by San Diego Chargers in 2004

Eli Manning is back for the second time since giving the middle finger to San Diego in 2004 and I think Rivers still wants to prove he is the man. Giants D is much weaker this year than past years and the Giants offense is inconsistent. I think Rivers and the gang get a bounce back win after losing to the Bengals and giving up a great opportunity in the Playoff race. Chargers get a win and continue to give false hope to their fans.

Giants 24 Chargers 31

Seattle @ SF

Kaepernick vs Wilson
Kaepernick vs Wilson

Even though Seattle is red hot right now, and has won 2 straight verse the Niners, SF finally gets Russell Wilson and company at home. This is going to be a hard fought NFC-West Rivalry game. I believe Colin Kaepernick will start getting hot and make a play for his team. Although the Seahawks only have one loss, they do not play as well on the road. I will take SF in a nail biter at home.

Seattle 20 San Francisco 21

Carolina @ New Orleans

Drew Brees making plays
Drew Brees making plays

I just do not picture Drew Brees losing at home after getting embarrassed up in Seattle. The Panthers are good and coming into New Orleans hot, but I believe the Saints show Carolina who the real class of the NFC is.  The game may be close in the end, but I just don’t think the Panthers D can stop Brees and the Saints at home.

Carolina 24 New Orleans 38

Dallas @ Chicago

And to the Monday night game. Even with Josh McCown playing well, I just do not see them winning this game even at home. Their defense has not been playing up to “Bears Standards” by any means and Dallas finally seems like they are getting into a rhythm. I say Dallas wins it and continues to extend their lead in the NFC East.

Dallas 27 Chicago 16

Other games…

Min @ Bal – Baltimore, ATL @ GB – Falcons, Cle @ NE – Patriots, OAK @ NJ – Jets, Mia @ Pit – Steelers, Buf @ TB – Buccaneers, Ten @ Den – Broncos, Stl @ Ari – Cardinals

Chargers Blowing Opportunities… 2013 Season Slipping Away

Sunday December 1st, 2013, The San Diego Chargers sat at 5-6 with the Playoffs very well in reach. A win against the Bengals would put the Chargers right in pace for the 6th seed in a week AFC with 4 games to play and a favorable home schedule…

When you break down the game, Philip Rivers actually played well. Even though his stat line was not near his best of the season (23/37 for 252 1 TD 1 INT), he still put the team in position to win.

Many could speculate and point out different reasons for why the Chargers lost this game, and I would say it is all of them.

First, losing the Turnover Battle is not the right formula to win games.

Antonio Gates was a direct cause of two of them. Rivers was driving on the first turnover only for Gates to fumble on the 18-yd line. That is guaranteed 3 pts and changes the dynamic of the game. Seeing the second Gates turnover live at Qualcomm, I will say I thought it was a fumble. Seeing the replay after, I understand that it was a strip before the catch causing an INT. Pretty bogus INT for Rivers as Gates simply got out-toughed for the ball. Seems to me like thats how a majority of Rivers’ 9 INTs have gone this season (see Vincent Brown).

Gates Fumble on the 18 yd-line
Gates Fumble on the 18 yd-line

Its really disappointing seeing Gates with 2 fumbles this season after not having one since 2008. The first half of the season Gates seemed back in his prime, but you can tell he has aged as the season has gone on. He still gets double teamed which is causing a new certain someone to come open… but that is for a different article.

The third turnover of the game was Keenan Allen’s cough up after a reception. To me, this play epitomized  the game. Our offense just could not get things going in one full swing the entire day. And to be honest, you have to give credit where credit is due. The Bengals defense is easy top-5 in the league and played like it. They shut down a good offense who noticeably could not get in sync.

This game truly showed you how limited San Diego’s offense is. For how good a Quarterback Rivers is, and how well he has played this season, he still does not have very many weapons. Keenan Allen is great, but has been getting double teamed as defenses are starting to respect his play. Chargers really just need 1 more guy, just 1 more on offense and they will have a complete-and-elite offense. Vincent Brown has been a huge disappointment this season and we needed that 2nd-WR production vs the Bengals with Royal out.

My next item comes about the Chargers defense. Atrocious. Not to be harsh, but the Chargers D-line got completely man handled by the Bengals offense. Our D-line is supposed to be our strength. Watching this game live, you could see Corey, Kendall, and Cam getting tossed. I have a great respect for our DE’s but these guys need help. Chargers defense is just a complete mess right now. Our 3-4 offense hinges on good LB play, and with 3 injured OLBs it is hard to get pressure in the box.

San Diego’s defense gave up 164 yards on the ground for nearly 4.4 yards per carry. For as bad as Andy Dalton was playing in the first half, they were still eating up precious clock. This was apparently a game where Rivers needed to get in rhythm with his offense, but with the Bengals on the field the majority of the second half they just could not get things going.

Chargers D cannot make the big play sometimes. In the 4th quarter the Chargers were still in position to win and gave up a 50 yard catch-and-run to Andrew Hawkins that sealed 3 pts making it a 2-score game.

Andrew Hawkins 50 yd catch-and-run
Andrew Hawkins 50 yd catch-and-run

Many of the Bengals big plays came on third downs. Something you might correlate to defensive stands – Stadium Noise…

Now, in my section fans were going nuts. But I was sitting on the “Chargers’ Side,” which is downright disappointing. Looking across to the north-side of the stadium, you notice a majority of the seats were empty.

Empty Seats at Qualcomm
Empty Seats at Qualcomm

The one’s that were full were orange Bengals fans. This is depressing when the Chargers are in a must-win game and we cannot even sell out the stadium. I understand this may be due to a few seasons worth of damage, but Chargers still had faith. I don’t want to hear Qualcomm is a poor facility, or Bengals are not a big draw, the fact is our fans let the team down. Defenses feed off of a loud stadium and we just did not bring it.

Then again, if they had simply won some of the close games this season, that stadium may have been a-rockin…