San Diego State Aztecs
Mountain West Conference (25-8, 11-5)
Big Wins: 1/5 New Mexico (74-64), 3/12 vs New Mexico (72-69), 3/13 at UNLV (55-45)
Bad Losses: 11/25 at Pacific (63-71), 12/19 at Arizona State (52-55), 1/9 at Wyoming (83-85)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2006, First Round loss to Indiana
Coach: Steve Fisher (20-8 in 9 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
San Diego State is very forward heavy this year. As a result they are a great rebounding team and a solid defensive team since they have plenty of size to clog the paint. Malcolm Thomas epitomizes the 2009-2010 Aztecs. He is a quality interior scorer who averages 11.0 points per game. Thomas is also a great rebounder and grabs 7.8 boards per contest. Yet, Thomas is also a horrible free-throw shooter, but a decent passer.
Kawhi Leonard, a 6-7 freshman, is Coach Steve Fisher’s leading scorer and rebounder with 12.8 and 9.9, respectively. Leonard has lived up to the hype coming out of high school and has the potential to put up 20 or more points on any given night. At 6-8 and 235 pounds, Billy White is the biggest of the regular starters. White is not as effective on the glass as Leonard or Thomas, but he is a versatile scorer who can consistently hit the mid-range jumper. Brian Carlwell, who spent some time at Illinois, is a very experienced player to have available off the bench and he is a big body who can at least eat up some fouls and play tough defense against dominating big men.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The overall field-goal percentage is not bad since most of the Aztecs shots come from close to the basket from the big guys, but this is not a good shooting team. They hit just 60.8 percent of their free-throw attempts and 31.8 percent of their attempts from beyond the arc. Those are some really bad numbers. The outside shooting woes can be blamed on a lot of people and so can the turnovers, but the starting backcourt duo need to take control. D.J. Gay is an experienced player who does a fine job running the point. He is a good scorer, but obviously not a great shooter. He has enough of an outside shot to keep the opposition honest, but he lacks consistency…as does freshman Chase Tapley. Tapley cracked the starting lineup due to his ballhandling abilities and he is also a decent long range shooter.
Who To Watch:
Tyrone Shelley and Kelvin Davis are the backup guards and both have started a few games this season. However, both are also shooting under 30 percent from beyond the arc. Shelley will attack the basket a little more often than Davis and can provide a spark off the bench even if his shot is not falling. But San Diego State needs to find a consistent shooter especially since the opposition will give them open looks while concentrating on defending the scorers in the paint. It does not matter who does it, but somebody needs to hit some three-pointers to open up the offense.
D.J. Gay, Junior, Guard, 10.3 ppg, 3.2 apg
Kelvin Davis, Senior, Guard, 6.5 ppg, 1.1 apg
Kawhi Leonard, Freshman, Forward, 12.8 ppg, 9.9 rpg
Billy White, Junior, Forward, 11.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg
Malcolm Thomas, Junior, Forward, 11.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg
Brian Carlwell, Junior, Center, 4.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg
Tyrone Shelley, Sophomore, Guard, 6.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Chase Tapley, Freshman, Guard, 7.8 ppg, 2.2 apg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.0 (117th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 61.8 (38, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 47.6 (23, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.3 (47, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.4 (255, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 31.8 (240, 7)
Free-Throw Percentage: 60.8 (330, 9)
Rebound Margin: 7.0 (10, 1)
Assists Per Game: 13.6 (132, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.4 (150, 5)
Follow Joel Welser's Postseason Capsules & College Basketball Previews on Twitter @Joel_Welser and on his Facebook page. Joel will be back in June for his annual Top 144 Teams in 144 Days preview on CollegeHoops.net