As part of its preview of the 2015 NCAA men’s basketball tournament, SI.com is taking a look at all 68 teams in the field. RPI and SOS data from realtimerpi.com. Adjusted offense and defense are from kenpom.com and measure the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions, and the team’s national rank. All stats are through Monday, March 16.
Record: 26-8 (14-4 MWC)
Adjusted offensive/defensive efficiency: 102.4 (162nd)/88.3 (4th)
Seed: South No. 8
Impact player: J.J. O'Brien, senior, forward. 10.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 107.8
The Case For: Coaches love that old cliché “defense wins championships,” and it’s served the Aztecs well. Veteran Steve Fisher has built a program that prides itself on locking down opposing offenses. SDSU ranks third nationally in points allowed (53.4) and fifth in field goal percentage defense (37.7%). If you find a way to score on the Aztecs, it probably took considerable time and effort. SDSU forces teams deep into the shot clock, and as such, controls the pace (which is not exactly brisk, but usually works for them).
SDSU also got a big emotional boost with the Feb. 21 return of senior forward Dwayne Polee II, who missed two months after collapsing during a game due to a since-discovered heart condition. Polee II was SDSU’s best player before his mandated break, and his game adds another dimension to the Aztecs. He’s only playing 15-20 minutes since returning, but at 6’7”, 200 pounds, defenses have to respect him.
The Case Against: You might want to cover your eyes when San Diego State has the ball, because the Aztecs’ offense is flat-out ugly. They average a measly 62.4 points per game, which ranks—wait for it—290th in the country. Fisher knows it’s bad, too: After scoring 77 points in a Jan. 20 win at Air Force, a reporter expressed shock regarding the Aztecs’ offensive abilities. Fisher responded, “I didn't realize we could (score like that), either."
They have a tendency to go long stretches without baskets, and don’t have a consistent, go-to scorer in crunch time. They weren’t as dominant in a weaker-than-usual Mountain West Conference, either: SDSU fell 56-46 to Boise State on the road Feb. 28 (the Broncos swept them this season), and to fourth-seeded Wyoming in the MWC tournament championship, 45-43, on March 14. Their last loss cost the Aztecs momentum coming into the tournament.