SDSU men’s basketball’s new season began Monday night with a firm victory over the overmatched Cal State Fullerton. This Friday however the Aztecs face their first big test of the year when they host former Mountain West rival BYU at Viejas Arena.
The #19 ranked Aztecs have a great opportunity to get a high quality win versus an opponent that should finish among the top 3 teams in the West Coast Conference. But for the Aztecs the rankings take a backseat to what they really want—revenge.
The Cougars own two consecutive victories against SDSU and Coach Dutcher’s squad is eager to reverse that trend. Though the pair of losses were closely contested, there is no consolation when losing to the Cougars. Tip-off is scheduled for 7:30pm Friday night and will be aired on YurView TV (channel 4) and streaming on the Mountain West Network.
In the off-season BYU had to rebuild their roster after losing key pieces from last year’s squad including their MVP Alex Barcello. Returning for Coach Mark Pope is their entire front court in 6’6 forward Gideon George, 6’7 forward Fousseyni Traore and promising 6’11 center Atiki Ally Atiki.
One newcomer for BYU should be a familiar name to Aztec fans. 6’3 point guard Rudi Williams who played at Coastal Carolina last year, entered the transfer portal and had the Aztecs as a finalist this past summer before signing with BYU.
The Cougs also picked up in the transfer portal Jaxson Robinson, a 6’5 guard from Arkansas and Noah Waterman, a 6’11 guard from Detroit Mercy. The drop off in talent from last season’s roster isn’t significant, but the question mark is how quickly can the newcomers gel with the returning players?
Like the Aztecs, BYU scored over 100 points in a blowout exhibition game victory to begin the season. 13 players scored in the 109-69 win over Ottawa University of Arizona. They followed it up in their home opener by almost losing to Idaho State. The same Idaho State who is #335 out of 363 schools in the KenPom rankings. In a game they were favored to win by 23.5 points, the Cougars barely won 60-56. The Bengals are predicted by some media outlets to finish dead last in the Big Sky Conference.
If BYU plays like that against SDSU, they are sure to get blown out by the high octane Aztecs and taunted out of the gym by a vengeful Viejas Arena crowd.
The Aztecs clearly demonstrated on Monday night their depth of talent & tenacity. Not one player logged over 24 minutes of play. In addition to dominating Fullerton in this manner, it was all done without relying heavily on last years go-to man, Matt Bradley.
The same minutes may not be the case when it comes to beating a more highly regarded team like BYU. Here are our views on how the Aztecs can get the better of BYU and send the Cougars home with a big, fat, L.
3 Keys to Victory
1. Press BYU
Outside of Williams, BYU is lean on ball handlers and careless with the ball. Their guards are not as quick as Darrion Trammell & Lamont Butler, Adam Seiko and Matt Bradley.
In their exhibition game the Cougs played sloppy against a much inferior opponent and committed 19 turnovers, allowing 17 points off of those turnovers. Against Idaho State, BYU committed 23 turnovers to only 9 assists. Trammell & Butler combined for 7 steals against Cal State Fullerton.
2. Hit the Boards
BYU’s strength is their interior in rebounders Traore and Atiki. The Aztecs counter with 3 of best in the Mountain West with Nathan Mensah, Jaedon LeDee and Keshad Johnson.
Despite SDSU allowing CSU Fullerton to notch one more rebound than they did, the Aztecs will win this game running away if they don’t allow 2nd chance points and instead create some of their own.
3. Use Your Depth
BYU has a solid starting 5 but lacks experienced depth on their roster. The Cougs were hit with another blow as key sub, guard Trevin Knell, suffered a rotator cuff injury and will not be available.
SDSU’s bench is loaded. Expect Adam Seiko, Micah Parrish, Aguek Arop, Elijah Saunders and possibly Miles Byrd to all get some run.
Playing intense press defense and subbing often will wear down a young BYU team over the course of the game. The propensity for BYU to turn the ball over will only be exacerbated when fatigue sets in on them in the 2nd half.
In the end, the game is sure to be exciting as usual when these two heated rivals clash. BYU with their style of play tend to always bring their best against SDSU. A win for the #19 Aztecs may not look as impressive as others on the their schedule, but would certainly go a long ways in starting the season off right for their resume and the support of their fanbase.
Watch the latest ‘Kiss The Rings’ podcast episode where the guys give a season preview of the first out of conference games for the Aztecs.