Tonight's game will feature two teams that are not all that experienced in the NCAA tournament. San Diego State has never won a game until this year and UConn only has Kemba Walker who has extended NCAA tournament experience. However, both coaches have made deep NCAA tournament runs including national titles. San Diego State was expected to be good in the pre-season, but they have far exceeded even the people who follow the team closely. As for UConn, they were predicted to finish 10th in the preseason Big East projections and ended up actually finishing 9th in the Big East, but Kemba Walker led UConn to winning Big East tournament where the Huskies won five games in five days.
Walker is UConn and they go as far he will take them. Walker scores 23.6 points per game which makes up for just over 30 percent of the UConn scoring per game. Whenever Walker is contained the Huskies typically struggle in games, and that is what San Diego State needs to focus on. The Aztecs will not be able to completely stoop Walker, but if they can limit Walker to a few points under his average and force others to step up then San Diego State will probably win.
That is easier said then done, because when the Aztecs defeated BYU in the Mountain West title game Jimmer Fredette still scored over 30 points in the losing effort. The next set of scorers for UConn are Alex Oriakhi and Jeremy Lamb who both score about 10 points a piece, so the Aztecs will need to shut down the peripheral players to get the win. The Aztecs defense will give even Kemba Walker struggles with the way they play team defense using their length and quickness.
In effective defensive field goal percentage the Aztecs are seventh in the nation at 43.8 percent. UConn's effective field goal percentage is a paltry 43.8 percent and is in the bottom tier of the NCAA. For those wondering this is the formula for effective field goal percentage is this: eFG% = (.5*3FGM + FGM) / FGA). That state can be misleading -- to a degree -- since it places a higher emphasis on three-point basket, but it is stillis more accurate then normal field goal percentage.
The Huskies will have to watch out for forward Malcolm Thomas who averages three blocks per game and had tow big time blocks in the overtime sessions int he Aztecs win over Temple last weekend.
The Aztecs on offense spread the ball to multiple players, but they are led by forward Kawhi Leonard who averages a double-double per game with15 points and boards, but the Aztecs are not a one-man show. Malcolm Thomas, D.J. Gay and Billy White all average 10 points or more per game. Billy White could be the key for an Aztec win, because when he gets hot from three-point shooting the Aztecs are a much better team.
Even though San Diego State has been ranked within the top 10 for most of the year, a lot of people do not now about the Aztecs (cue rant on the MWC television deal):
"You see the rankings and you see us up there, but people don't really know much about us," Aztecs forward Tim Shelton said. "We're finally getting an opportunity to let people see what we're about. Our guys feed off that. We understand that we're seen as a mid-major, so people feel like (we) don't deserve it because (we) don't consistently play the same type of competition. But we've won 34 games. That's a whole lot of wins."
Here is a great line from Mid-Major Madness about tonight's game and it could be the key to who wins:
UConn has a very low rate of free throws attempted versus field goals attempted (34.4) ranking 260th in the country which means not a ton of trips to the line relatively speaking. San Diego State's defense has one of the best marks nationally here (they rank 14th), meaning they don't allow opposing teams to get to the line at a high rate.
My prediction is that San Diego State's depth will win out over the one-man Kemba Walker show for UConn.