There are times where a sports blogger needs his sword to die on. A take they have to see all the way through. My take, predicted that San Diego State is going to the Final Four. I talked about it in my dark horse article, and Garrett Lash dreamed into existence.
The big bulldozer standing in the way of that reality is the top overall seed: the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Aztecs have been an underrated program under Brian Dutcher’s leadership. They have dominated the Mountain West Conference and have been a Top 25 team in the country for the past five seasons.
The one validation they are missing is NCAA Tournament success. Getting to the Elite Eight would be major accomplishment for the program. It would lift up the standings and narrative of the Mountain West Conference as a whole. Many in the college basketball community view the conference not so highly because the league constantly underperforms in the NCAA Tournament.
C’mon Aztecs, let’s change that shall we. Let’s break down how we can do that.
The Wall of 70
Seventy points. That’s the goal.
The Aztecs are 22-2 this season when holding teams to 70 or less. On the contrary, Alabama is 1-4 when the team does not hit the 70-point threshold. It’s a reasonable goal here. Alabama’s point total per DraftKings sports book is 72.5 going into this contest.
The Aztecs rank sixth overall in defensive efficiency and they rank fourth nationally in defensive 3-point percentage, allowing opponents to shoot just 28.4% from deep. Alabama shoots 3s at the eighth highest clip but percentage wise they rank 172nd. San Diego State has guys who can guard Alabama on the wings. Between Keshad Johnson, Micah Parrish and Agues Arop, SDSU has switchable wings who can guard Brandon Miller. Lamont Butler is a guy who can cause issues for Jahvon Quinerly. San Diego State has the potential to make this into a backyard brawl.
Rebound the Round Ball
You are not going to win the rebounding battle against Alabama. You can’t afford to get killed on the boards here. Alabama ranks first nationally in defensive rebounding percentage and 12th in offensive rebounding percentage. The Aztecs rank 62nd nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and 57th in defensive rebounding percentage.
They aren’t bad on the boards but they are not elite as well. Alabama has had a plus-14 rebounding margin in their last four wins. You can’t give up second chance points. Aztecs center Nathan Mensah is going to need to play the game of his life.
Avoid the 8:00 minute offensive drought
The Aztecs had their best offensive performance against Furman in the second round. The Aztecs averaged 1.12 points per possession and shot 50% from the field. Parrish has stepped up off the bench scoring 17 points against Furman and seven against Charleston.
Jaedon LeDee had 17 against Utah State in the MWC championship game and eight points and 10 rebounds against Charleston. The point is that the Aztecs have multiple guys who can contribute.
Matt Bradley is great, but he is not going to be able to carry them offensively with the type of pressure ‘Bama brings. Guys like Butler and Darrion Trammell have to hit big shots.
I’m a believer good things happen to good people and justice eventually comes around to the people who deserve it. You may not see it in the moment but eventually it happens.
No matter what your opinion is of the situation surrounding Miller and the Crimson Tide, they have become villains in the sport. Miller has yet to receive any punishment from the team from his alleged involvement in the shooting death of Jamea Jonae Harris.
A San Diego State win would remove that media circus from the rest of the NCAA Tournament, and the games will take center stage the rest of the way.