An Early Summer Preview Of The Upcoming Season For SDSU Basketball: Big Baller Style
The ultimate fan’s guide to the marquee and bargain matchups of the 2017-2018 SDSU Basketball Season
“If you can’t afford the ZO2’s, you’re not a big baller!” -Lavar Ball
One of the oldest sayings in the book is that money doesn’t grow on trees. While most fans would agree that it would be really nice to attend every home game for San Diego State basketball, the reality of life is that only a select few will get season tickets and the rest of the 1.38 million San Diego residents will be clamoring for whatever is still available.
It can’t be said enough how much Steve Fisher did to turn this program around, but with a better team comes rising ticket prices and some can no longer afford to attend every home game. If we apply the infamous Lavar Ball’s logic to this situation, someone who can’t afford to go to every game because of the prices isn’t a Big Baller.
However, I tend to believe that anyone can be a Big Baller and as such, I’ve compiled a list of games for readers to attend where they would get the most bang for their buck. I selected three games a piece that will fall into two separate categories.
The Big Baller category is for the three best games at Viejas this year. These games will be pricey, but should be worth it. They are the marquee matchups, the ones that could end up defining the entire season at the Mesa. Each of these games should be big enough to be on television or some kind of streaming service, but nothing is better than watching a premier contest live at one of the best venues in college basketball.
The Bargain category is for those looking for matchups which wouldn’t end in blowouts and could actually end up bolstering the Aztec’s resumè. These games definitely won’t turn heads, but could have sneaky good value to them. Each of the bargain teams should have enough firepower to wreak a little havoc in their conferences this upcoming season and help push the SDSU’s KenPom ranking up, provided the Aztecs win. Keep your eye on all six of these games once tickets sales go live.
*The games are ranked in descending order with number one being the most desirable game to attend within each category.*
Could the Runnin’ Rebels finally be running toward a conference championship? It’s been over a quarter of a century since the legendary Jerry Tarkanian had his UNLV teams running their opponents off the court, but a return to relevance could be in the cards (pun intended). Marvin Menzies has assembled a very strong recruiting class and coupling that with some key returners could create the postseason elixir that Sin City desperately needs. This game should be a good one, but the multiple storylines and perks are what make this game a must watch for the locals.
Brandon McCoy’s homecoming. The homegrown product from Cathedral Catholic will presumably be making his only appearance in San Diego this upcoming spring and after keeping SDSU on his list of finalists, you better believe The Show will let him hear it for ultimately deciding to not stay home.
Getting to see the rest of the vaunted class. McCoy steals most of the headlines and rightfully so. Look at what he has done during the FIBA U-19 World Cup, but don’t forget about the others in the class. Shakur Juiston is a lethal scorer who just so happened to be the number one JUCO recruit in the country this past year, Amauri Hardy is a four star recruit who will run the show at the point while Cheikh Mbacke Diong will provide some more size and length up front.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg with this team. This should be one of the most explosive Rebel teams in years, not to mention their extremely high ceiling if they can put it all together. Shootouts always tend to be fun to watch, especially when it’s between two good teams jockeying for position in the league standings. Save the date on February 17. This one will almost assuredly come with fireworks attached and thus, expect it to be worthy your green.
Wolf Pack fans will probably be all over me for not putting their team first in the Big Baller category, but hear me out. I know Nevada is going to be really good this year. They should make the tournament. They are the favorites to win the conference.
However, they definitely have some flaws. Nevada will only be returning four key contributors from this past season and while it is a solid crop of players, that isn’t even enough to field a competitive team.
Yes, they have transfers practiced with the team last year and that they added another grad transfer in Darien Williams. However, the fact remains that this is a team whose roster will have a lot of new cogs in the wheel and there will most likely be an adjustment period.
Speaking of the roster, this team has five scholarships tied to players who won’t be eligible until the 2018-19 season. The depth (and height) of this team will be a question mark all year long and a serious injury to a key player could prove to be a fatal blow.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton of faith in what is happening up in Reno. Eric Musselman is one of the most underrated coaches in the country and I am a firm believer he will mold this team into a contender over the next 4-6 months, hence why they remain at the top of my MW preseason rankings.
However, the losses of Cameron Oliver, Marcus Marshall, Leland King II and Devearl Ramsey are substantial. If Oliver, King and Ramsey had returned, Nevada would’ve had a legitimate claim to the number one spot. A rematch at Viejas with those players would’ve been an absolute bloodbath and a joy to watch.
Musselman’s track record and the fact that this game should decide the league crown helps push the game into the two slot, but the laundry list of variables saddling the Pack going into the 2017-18 season keeps their visit on March 3rd out of the top spot.
This one should be pretty self explanatory. The reigning national runner ups have finally made the “jump”. They may always be a mid-major, but now, finally, they can be considered legitimate contenders. However, this game will be tantalizing for reasons other than the fact that Gonzaga is now officially a marquee program.
This mega-matchup will provide the Aztecs with a chance to get a much-needed boost in both their RPI and KenPom rankings. SDSU’s non-conference schedule was loaded with cupcakes last year, which is the reverse of the developing trend where the selection committee has been rewarding teams with difficult schedules.
A victory vs the Zags could be season defining for San Diego State as it would give them heaps of momentum and confidence heading into the Mountain West portion of their schedule. The Bulldogs should be vulnerable. They lost three starters plus supersub (and lottery pick) Zach Collins and will definitely be in the midst of a mild reboot.
Expect them to be anchored by veteran Johnathan Williams, Josh Perkins and Silas Melson, while Rui Hachimura and Killian Tillie make big jumps after building off of the valuable experience gained playing for Japan and France, respectively, at the FIBA U-19 World Cup.
This team should still run through the WCC and be a force this year, just not the buzzsaw that the Aztecs ran into last year at the Kennel. Think 2016 Gonzaga, when they were anchored by their three headed frontcourt monster of Kyle Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski and made a Sweet 16 run despite being an 11 seed.
December 23rd has the chance to be one of the best Christmas presents SDSU has ever gotten. Whether you are getting the tickets as a present or giving them to someone else, this will be the premier game at Viejas this year. If you are going to go to one game, make it this one.
3) Boise State
While the buzz was much more prominent when Paris Austin was on campus (he has since transferred), it wasn’t a death knell for the Broncos. They will still return two of their top three scorers, including projected preseason All-MW first teamer Chandler Hutchison. The Broncos should hover around the middle of the conference while possessing enough firepower to cause an upset each and every night.
BoiseState should be able to compete and make a close game out of each Mountain West opponent and will most likely be an KenPom Top 100 team again this upcoming season. The Broncos travel to San Diego on February 28 and this game could end up having two substantial ripple effects.
It’ll be a crucial contest for the Aztecs as it could provide a late boost to their tournament resume and a valuable conference win as they jockey for seeding in the league postseason tournament. Ticket prices should be reasonable for this game and this game should be the perfect way to affordably end the regular season.
This game mostly stands out because the Golden Bears are simply a Pac-12 school, but there are definitely other points of interest. This should be the earliest game listed in the article as it’s projected to be played in mid-November, although the date isn’t officially set yet.
Key addition Kameron Rooks will get the rare opportunity to play against his former team the following season as he prepares to spend his last season of eligibility pushing for one last NCAA tournament berth. Berkeley is definitely rebuilding, but this game will provide basketball junkies to get a firsthand look at a rejuvenated Marcus Lee.
Many may not remember the former five star from Antioch, but he remains full of potential. Lee transferred because he could never find consistent minutes under Coach John Calipari, but having the chance to star should be enough for him to push the Bears to an KenPom top 150 ranking by himself. If other contributors step up, they could easily be in the top 100, presenting SDSU with a nice early quality win.
Check this game out if you want to be the first to see the work put in during the summer as well as what needs tuning up if they want to return to the Madness.
1) Fresno State
The Bulldogs might actually be the team with the most buzz entering the Mountain West season. Quiet little Fresno could be home to a sleeping beast as there is a growing belief that FSU has the potential to be a lethal team this season. In fact, Connor Hope from Fansided had Fresno State at No. 2 in his latest Mountain West basketball rankings.
While I personally feel that is a little high, it’s hard not to see why the hype continues to grow. They return a ton of nice pieces and assuming that the team improves over the summer, it’s not a stretch to think this can be a top four team in the Mountain West. The Dogs should easily be a top-100 KenPom team, pushing on the top-75 and a win would go a long way in helping the Aztecs set the tone for the upcoming conference season. Make sure to clear January 17 on your calendar as the tickets for this game could be the best value for the entire SDSU season.
This year will be the swan song for the vaunted 2014 class and all indications show that this should be a strong year for the men of the Mesa. There are just 34 Sundays left till Selection Sunday and while that seems a long way off, every day is valuable for the Red and Black. A tourney berth is definitely possible if the stars align and with the chance to play Round of 64/32 games at Viejas next year, home crowd support will be more vital this season than in any other in SDSU basketball history.
Make sure to get your single game packages as this is shaping up to be a special year in San Diego. You’re not going to want to miss it.