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Lessons Learned from the Loss in Wyoming

San Diego State University Men’s Basketball Team suffered it’s first conference loss, 2nd overall, to the Cowboys in Wyoming this past Tuesday. The Aztecs looked very sluggish at times and gave up uncharacteristic dunks and easy buckets throughout the game. Wyoming’s offense also managed to cool star player Xavier Thames with their zone scheme. With the Airforce game today, here is what SDSU’s first MWC loss means…

Live and Die By Xavier Thames…

San Diego State’s star player is by far senior point guard Xavier Thames. He averages over 18 points per game, and even more impressive, he has averaged close to 21 points per game in conference play. Tuesday night, Xavier was held without a field goal through the first half and went 3/16 overall. He scored 13 points, which was his lowest in 12 games. In games at Boise State and at Utah, where San Diego was down in the late minutes, Xavier came through in the clutch. Against Boise State, SDSU was down 14 points and he led the initial comeback run with 9 straight points . Thames also had the final assist to Dwayne Polee for the game-winning three. Maybe it was the overall play of Wyoming and the Aztec defense, but Xavier finally failed to come through in the clutch on Tuesday night.

…He Can’t Do it All

Something positive from Xavier’s off night was the play of his fellow Aztec starters. Five Aztecs, including Thames, scored in double-digits. Winston Shepard had 11 points, Josh Davis and J.J. O’Brien both had 10 points, and Dwayne Polee had a team-high 15 points off the bench. Even with the loss, this production is something to be happy about. San Diego State is much deeper this year than it has been in recent years. Say goodbye to only Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley scoring points.

SDSU has a lot of players this year that can score all with their different styles. Despite the knee injury, Josh Davis has managed to be very aggressive in the paint with both scoring and rebounds. J.J. O’Brien has been banging down low as well, but also has good ball handling skills, has a nice spin move, and can hit shallow shots. Winston Shepard has tremendous potential and is currently the Aztecs second leading scorer. He needs to continue to develop and learn to finish at the basket. His mid-range shot is very pretty though. If SDSU wants to be a serious contender in the NCAA Tournament, they will need to continue to have production out of everyone.

Dwayne Polee is Gaining Confidence

Last year Dwayne Polee was named the Pre-Season favorite for Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year Award. So much for that. Polee rarely got playing time last year. This year Steve Fisher is giving him the ball more and Polee is taking advantage of the opportunity by making plays.

Dwayne Polee is very lengthy, athletic, and plays terrific defense, a prototypical Steve Fisher player. Polee causes a lot of turnovers and generates points for this Aztec offense. He has been much needed firepower off the bench, and  is continuing to develop and make big shots. Most importantly, Thames and the rest of the team trust him. He will be a good addition to the starting lineup in 2014-15.

SDSU Probably Won’t Be a #1 Seed in the NCAA Tournament

There has been much talk about the top 4 seeds in the tournament this year. Although SDSU sat ranked #5 before the Wyoming loss, they still had potential to be a #1 seed with only the one loss. The loss in Wyoming pretty much seals SDSU’s fate. Or does it?

There is still a lot of basketball to be played. Arizona already lost again last night and Syracuse had a scare earlier this week. Wichita State’s schedule is ridiculously easy (they haven’t played a ranked opponent all season), but without a loss they should expect to hold onto a #1 seed. #3 Florida also plays #14 Kentucky this week and could easily lose that game as well.

First and foremost, the Aztecs need to keep on winning. They still have two games against New Mexico who was ranked earlier in the season and are currently projected to be a lock for the NCAA Tournament. There is the possibility they will have to play New Mexico a third time in the MWC Tournament, as well as playing Boise State and Wyoming again — who both gave the Aztecs troubles. On a majority of websites, SDSU sits at a #2 seed, with a few saying a #3 seed. Steve Fisher and company needs to make sure he keeps his players focused and try to run the table in the MWC.

Don’t Play Down to Your Opponent

San Diego State has a phenomenal defense which is nationally ranked. Often times this season we have seen the Aztecs play down to their opponents. It as if they aren’t playing with as much energy or urgency. Perhaps it is because they assume they are just going to win the game anyways. Well that mentality finally caught up to SDSU in Wyoming.

It seemed as if the Aztecs had control for the first quarter of the game. It also seemed as if they could run away with the game after taking a little lead. Then they allowed the Cowboys get back into it. They got slow and lazy on defense and gave up a lot of points they should not have. After Wyoming tied the game at 22-22 with 4:23 to go in the first half, the Cowboys did not look back. SDSU trailed by 9 at the half and never took the lead again. The Aztecs need to take a deep breath and come to play every game to win.

San Diego State Basketball #5

xthames2

National recognition and respect is being earned by the San Diego State Men’s Basketball team.

The Aztecs now sit at 18-1, with 17 straight wins and a 7-0 conference record. We have already talked about their numbers; they have statistically one of the best defenses in the entire country. The Associated Press and Coaches Poll keep bumping up the Aztec’s ranking as the season goes on and the wins continue.

That is what Steve Fisher said early on in the season. He knew he had a good team. Back then, when SDSU was not ranked, Steve Fisher seemed worry free. In an interview back in November, Fisher stated his team just needs to keep focused one game at a time and — most importantly — keep winning.

Winning is what the Aztecs have seemed to do. Although playing in some close games, they still have pulled through and found ways to win. What is even more impressive, as most SDSU fans know, their only loss has come to the Number #1 Ranked Arizona Wildcats, who are undefeated.

The Aztecs may stay in the Top 10 the rest of the season. The Mountain West Conference is much weaker this season, so the games here down the stretch are not as enticing to watch. They will be challenged by Boise St. in the upcoming weeks as well as New Mexico twice in the end of the year. As I mentioned in a previous article, SDSU is in position to possibly close out the regular season undefeated, or potentially with only a couple losses.

What is also good for SDSU’s ranking is the teams they have beat. Obviously, we know they have beat 3 ranked teams. Creighton is creeping back in the top 25, now ranked 20. They also beat Villanova last week who was ranked #4 at the time and had a dominant game out of star senior Doug McDermott (39 pts) last night. Kansas just seems to keep winning. They have beat multiple ranked teams since losing to the Aztecs and their top rated defense a few weeks back.

It is an exciting time to be an SDSU Basketball fan. The mindset of this program over the last few years has now come to the expectation to make the tournament. It is now about what we are going to do in the tournament. Steve Fisher and the Aztecs need to keep focused and continue to get better every game. They need to start finishing at the basket better and continuing to dominate on defense. getting a 1-2-3 ranking in our NCAA Regional Bracket would be a huge feat and put us in position to have a smooth run to the Sweet 16, or maybe more.

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!