Does San Diego State Have A Realistic Shot At Winning The Tourney?
The Aztecs are participating in the John Wooden Classic.
Here is your early tournament breakdown.
The official bracket for the Wooden Legacy Classic was released this week and San Diego State drew Sacramento State for their first round matchup. The Thanksgiving tournament takes place on November 23, 24 and the 26 at the Titan Gym in Fullerton and for the first time, the finals will not be played at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The field is drastically different from last year’s when Lonzo Ball and Co. ran through the field en route to a convincing tournament title win. The field this year is headlined by a veteran St. Mary’s squad and Ivy League favorite Harvard along with SDSU.
Despite the consensus that the Gaels are a top 20 team, it would appear that SDSU secured the number one seed given St. Mary’s, Harvard and an upstart St. Joe’s team all reside on the other side of the pool.
With experts such as Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm slotting State in their Way-Too-Early brackets and a growing buzz building down in San Diego, their stock is definitely trending upwards.
A tournament title over a team like St. Mary’s could potentially be a huge boon to their NCAA tournament resume, especially since the outdated RPI is still a metric being used by the selection committee and the Aztecs have a subpar non-conference schedule once again. Read on for instant reactions, analysis and predictions on what should be an exciting three days of hoops in OC.
*Teams bolded are the ones being analyzed since they are projected to face SDSU
Game 1: vs Sacramento State
2016-17 Record: 13-18
Conference: Big Sky
Returning Starters: 3
Game Time: 10 PM PT (ESPNU) 11/23
The Aztecs will start the honorary Wooden tournament against the Hornets from up north. The two teams haven’t played since December 2, 2000 when SDSU knocked them off 92-69. While Sacramento State returns three starters and they did finish last season on a mini win streak, this shouldn’t be much of a competition. They still finished five games under .500 while playing in a low major conference.
Expect SDSU to take full advantage of the opportunity to play the worst team in the tourney and put it out of reach within the first 10-15 minutes. Especially with a 10 PM tipoff, the Aztecs will end this game early to rest the starters and be prepared for the quick turnaround the next day. Happy Thanksgiving Aztec fans.
Win Probability: 97%
Predicted Score: 84-61
Game MVP: Jalen McDaniels
Game 2: vs CS Fullerton/Georgia
2016-17 Record: 19-15
Returning Starters: 4
Game Time: 4 PM PT (ESPN2) 11/24
Assuming San Diego State handles business against Sac State, they should play Georgia. Led by NBA prospect Yante Maten, the Bulldogs return four starters and will be looking to make up for their lost season last year when they finished a pedestrian four games over average.
However, if the coaches do their due diligence, they will be able to discover the key to defeating UGA. Maten missed a four game stretch and while they did go 3-1, they beat three conference cellar dwellers by a combined eight points. Their luck rating, according to KenPom, during those games was north of 75.
After spurning the NBA, the offense will once again run through Maten. Georgia does have experience on their side, but if they can stifle Maten, expect to see the Aztecs in the championship game.
Win Probability 65%
Predicted Score: 73-65
Game MVP: Devin Watson
Game 3: St. Joe’s/Washington St./Harvard/St. Mary’s
Stats: (St. Mary’s)
2016-’17 Record: 29-5
Returning Starters: 4
Game Time: 9PM (ESPN2) 11/26
Should SDSU advance to the title game, another star big man will be awaiting them. Jock Landale, a bruising center from Australia, averaged 16.9 PPG and 9.5 RPG while shooting a 61% FG clip.
Ranked the 40th overall player by Jason McIntyre, he should easily average a double-double while looking to work his way up NBA big boards. It’s not just the Landale show, as the Gaels return three other starters, including their other top returning scorers in Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson.
This is a potent squad that has the ability to legitimately challenge Gonzaga for a WCC crown. The Gaels could be the next mid-major darling as a Sweet 16 berth is certainly on the table for them. This should be a very close game and if SDSU has made a big enough jump by the end of November, they could definitely steal this one. For now, I have them losing a heartbreaker in a battle of elite West Coast squads.
Win Probability: 40%
Predicted Score: 78-74
Game MVP: Trey Kell
While finishing runner up in any tournament is by no means a horrible result, it still leaves a bitter taste in your mouth. However, SDSU has much higher aspirations than being runner ups in a November tournament.
If they want to make the tournament that matters, they have to beat good competition. The Aztecs have all the pieces and talent to win the Wooden Legacy and if Dutcher gets them to gel by late November, don’t be surprised if they pull off a shocker Sunday night.