Runnin' Rebels look for resume building win in MWC Semi-Final against San Diego State.
UNLV has played San Diego State twice this season with the same result both times, a 6 point loss. Both times, the game was very close late, but the Rebels weren't able to score in the final minutes and the Aztecs hung on. The UNLV defense has had trouble stopping the powerful inside game that San Diego State has while still containing D.J. Gay. I'll get into that a little bit later in the preview, but for right now, let's talk about the stakes in this game.
San Diego State is trying to get a two seed, possibly a one seed if things go awry at the top of the polls. They need to win the MWC Tournament in order for that to happen and obviously a loss here would eliminate them and relegate them to a 3 seed.
UNLV has stakes that are as big if not bigger than the Aztecs' since their seeding doesn't determine which team from a one-bid league they play, but it determines the quality of the team they play in the first and second rounds. UNLV can range anywhere between a 7 and 9 seed with their current resume depending on how the Committee likes their resume. A win tonight would put them in the range of a 5-7 seed and would definitely make the road to the Sweet 16 and beyond much easier.Like I said earlier in the post, UNLV struggles with containing both D.J. Gay and the Aztec's amazing post game at the same time. This is mostly due to UNLV's style of a man-to-man defense, of which San Diego State plays great against. Almost all the players on San Diego State can beat any player one on one.
The simple way for UNLV to beat this is to take the BYU approach and play tons of zone. That's how BYU was able to slow down the Aztecs' offense in both games this season. The only problem is that UNLV is no where near the scoring machine that BYU is. They are going to have to shoot great from behind the arc in order to keep San Diego State from clogging up the paint.
San Diego State's defensive philosophy should be simple. UNLV's offense is predicated upon driving and kicking the ball in order to create mismatches and open shots. In order to limit this penetration, the only thing San Diego State should have to do is play a good zone and not be late on help rotation. That allows for the Aztecs to contain any penetration and avoid too many open shots.
For the offense, the plan is simple - get the ball to Kawhi Leonard. The only way UNLV can stop Leonhard is by double teaming him and that means that Leonard kicks the ball back out to an open three point shooter on the perimeter.
I'm going to predict a UNLV win by 5, but only because the Runnin' Rebels post defense has improved greatly since the last meeting between these two teams and I think they'l be able to stop Leonard enough times to keep the bleeding to a minimum.
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