TEAM OUTLOOK San Diego State has arrived on the national stage and should stay there. The Aztecs return four starters, including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin. The addition of three transfers, including athletic wing Dwayne Polee II (St. John's) and forward JJ O'Brien (Utah), and the arrival of highly-regarded freshman forward Winston Shepard have heightened expectations.
BREAKING DOWN THE STARTING FIVE Ranked in the top 25 nationally by Scout and Rivals, top recruit Winston Shepard will be given the chance to make the same type of impact Kawhi Leonard did two seasons ago. O'Brien started 21 games for Utah as a freshman and bolsters a thin interior. Polee II brings an athleticism that has the Aztecs excited about mismatch opportunities when he is on the floor with Shepard and Jamaal Franklin.
Franklin heads one of the nation's top backcourts after averaging 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds as a sophomore and displaying a knack for making big shots. He occasionally makes careless mistakes, but the Aztecs don't want to rein in his aggressiveness. Senior Chase Tapley, who averaged 15.8 points last year and notched a team-best 60 steals and junior point guard Xavier Thames averaged 10.1 points per game.
Senior James Rahon is a solid three-point marksman when he is on his game. Rahon hopes to regain the form that saw him make 43.4 percent of his 3-point attempts in 2010-11 after undergoing foot surgery.
NEWCOMERS Shepard is one of the most ballyhooed recruits in San Diego State history and should shine immediately. O'Brien provides solid frontcourt versatility for a program heavy with guards and wings. Polee II is an athletic wing who should be one of the top newcomers in the Mountain West. James Johnson won't be eligible until December. He brings size and bulk. Forwards Skylar Spencer and Matt Shrigley provide depth.
FINAL ANALYSIS San Diego State has all the necessary ingredients to make a lengthy postseason run. The Aztecs are tournament tested with three straight NCAA appearances and have one of the most talented teams in program history. Just reaching the NCAA tournament is no longer good enough at San Diego State, which is a true testament to the job Fisher has done.
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