San Diego State Aztecs
Overall Rank: #55
Conference Rank: #4 MWC
2007-08: 20-13, 9-7, 4th
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Eight players averaged over 20 minutes per game last year at San Diego State and all eight of them are back. Coach Steve Fisher has a deep and talented team and there will be few excuses, barring more injuries, for this group not to make a postseason tournament.
The bottom four minute earners from the 2007-2008 campaign are the only departures and even all of them might not be gone. Jer’Vaughn Johnson, Chris Lamb and Jon Pastorek all averaged under ten minutes per game during their final season with the Aztecs. Matt Thomas started eight games and could return for a fifth year pending NCAA approval.
Even with all the returning talent, San Diego State could use some more options on the perimeter. Walk-ons Bryan Horton and Jason Deutchman are probably not the answer, but Tim Island could be. The junior college transfer, who spent his freshman campaign at Long Beach State, is a good shooter. At 6-6, he also has nice size for a two guard in the MWC. Another junior college transfer, Mehdi Cheriet, will add more depth in the paint. Cheriet can hit the outside shot and can provide some depth at the center spot using his 6-9 and 200 pound frame.
Who to Watch:
No team can match the depth and talent of the Aztecs frontcourt. Lorrenzo Wade and Kyle Spain* are the leaders. Wade averaged 14.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists last year and earned first-team all-conference honors. Wade is not a great outside shooter, but he makes up for it by getting to the basket. If the outside shot starts falling, nobody will be able to stop Wade. Spain was the most prolific outside shooter on the team and the 6-5 forward is versatile enough to play at the two guard spot. And with the talent in the frontcourt, having Spain play at shooting guard would make sense. That would allow Billy White or Tim Shelton to slide into the starting lineup. White averaged 8.5 points and 5.9 rebounds en route to conference freshman of the year honors. It was when Shelton went down with a knee injury that White got the opportunity to shine. Now Shelton is back after playing in four contests and averaging ten points per game in those games. His ability to play inside and out will give SDSU yet another dynamic scorer in the frontcourt…as long as he can stay healthy. The center spot belongs to Ryan Amoroso. At 6-8 and 257 pounds, he is big enough to clog the paint. Amoroso, who averaged 11.4 points and a team high 6.5 rebounds as a junior, can score from the perimeter, but his ability to score in the paint frees up space for his teammates.
The pressure is on the backcourt to help the Aztecs live up to their vast potential. Kelvin Davis had a decent year in San Diego after transferring in from the College of Southern Idaho. For the most part he was used as a shooter off the bench during the 2007-2008 campaign, but he has the potential to step into a starting role if he can hold off Island. Yet, he also needs to perform well enough for Coach Steve Fisher to want to keep a guard on the floor instead of sliding Spain down to the shooting guard position. At the point there are options with Richie Williams and D.J. Gay. Williams is the experienced option, but Gay started 26 games as a freshman. Neither are great scorers, but that is not what the Aztecs need out of their point guard. As long as the duo at the point can keep the turnovers down and find the scorers, San Diego State will be a dangerous team in the Mountain West Conference. But those turnovers have been a problem in the past and if that trend continues, there will be disappointment on The Mesa.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Richie Williams, Senior, Guard, 6.9 points per game
Kelvin Davis, Senior, Guard, 7.5 points per game
Kyle Spain, Senior, Forward, 13.2 points per game
Lorrenzo Wade, Senior, Forward, 14.8 points per game
Ryan Amoroso, Senior, Forward, 11.4 points per game
*Note: The status of suspended Kyle Spain for the upcoming season is uncertain as of today. His absence would be a major blow.