Long Tenured Head Coach Steve Fisher has brought the San Diego State Aztecs into a new era of basketball. The Aztecs have made it to the big dance 3 years in a row, including a sweet 16 finish in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. San Diego State has many of their strong teams near their home (Syracuse on the USS Midway and UCLA in Anaheim) and has a very good chance of beating those opponents. Top Scorer Jamaal Franklin leads his Aztec team into their last season as members of the MWC and intend on taking the 2013 MWC crown with them with the help of their next 3 highest scorers from last season.
Coach: Steve Fisher (14th year)
Key Returnees: SG Jamaal Franklin: 17.4 PPG-7.9 RPG
SG Chase Tapley: 15.8 PPG-4.3 RPG
PG Xavier Thames: 10.1 PPG-4.1 APG
SG James Rahon: 8.9 PPG-2.7 RPG
Key Losses: F Garrett Green: 6 PPG-4.6 RPG
Projected Starting 5:
SG Jamaal Franklin
SG Chase Tapley
PG Xavier Thames
PF Deshawn Stephens
SF Dwayne Polee
Team Overview: Most of San Diego State's scoring presence lies in the backcourt in SG Jamaal Franklin, SG Chase Tapley, and PG Xavier Thames while the front court gets an addition in SF Dwayne Polee (4.4 PPG-2.5 RPG) from St. Johns and former ESPNU 100 recruit. NBA level is on the team and the experience is there two, but with top 25 opponents early in the season, this team may find it hard to find success and establish a "feel" for their offense early in the season.
Key Opponents: V.S Syracuse* (on USS Midway), V.S UCLA* (@ Anaheim), @ USC
Syracuse: The Syracuse Orange are always a high level basketball team and reload their team with former top 100 recruits waiting in the benches. PG Brandon Triche (9.4 PPG-2.46 APG) and SF C.J. Fair (8.5 PPG-5.4 RPG) are the only starters from last years team but are joined by highly touted freshman C Dajuan Coleman and former top 100 recruits PF Rakeem Christmas (2.9 PPG-2.9 RPG) and SG Michael Carter-Williams (2.7 PPG-1.5 RPG) who recived little paying time last year. The youth on this team may hurt the Orangemen early and playing on the USS Midway in San Diego for their first game of the season, the Orange may find itself giving the S.O.S signal.
UCLA: Can we finally say that UCLA is back? That's what we said last year about Ben Howland's underwhelming pre-season 17th ranked Bruin team that finished with a 19-14 record (no post season tournaments of any kind) and set a blaze to Howland's seat: perhaps that was an exaggeration. UCLA is inching back to their respectable title as a basketball powerhouse, and nabbing the #2 recruit in Shabazz Muhammad certainly helps that cause. Muhammad is joined by fellow All American's SF Kyle Anderson and C Tony Parker. Former Tar Heel PG Larry Drew II (4.4 PPG-3.9 APG) transfers to UCLA in order to reunite with fellow Tar Heels PF David Wear (10.2 PPG-6.3 RPG) and PF Travis Wear (11.5 PG-5.9 RPG-1.2 BPG). The frontcourt of the Bruins will be unparalleled to any other team in college basketball as the Bruins starting 5 will likely be sporting 4 Forwards (with the exception of Muhammad of being a Guard-Forward combo) and Drew II running the point. In case the Bruins have trouble blowing out the Bulldogs when they play in LA, they have C Joshua Smith (9.9 PPG-4.9 RPG) waiting in the wings.
USC: The Trojans may be known for football, but an occasionally find success on the hardwood. From looking at last year's team you may wonder why USC would be a "key opponent" for the Aztec, but on paper the Trojans aren't as bad as they look. PG Jio Fontan (10.5 PPG-3.9 APG) returns to the starting lineup from the 2010-11 team that made it to the NCAA Tournament. Wake Forest Transfer SF Ari Stewart (8.5 PPG-4.4 RPG) joins SG Byron Wesley (9.6 PPG-5.1 RPG), PF Aaron Fuller (10.6 PPG-5.9 RPG), and utility big man C Dewayne Dedmon (7.6 PPG-5.5 RPG-1 BPG). While the Trojans have lots of scoring and rebounding power, and a home court advantage over San Diego State, the Aztecs should have no problem beating USC in LA.
The Rest: @ Missouri State, VS San Diego, VS San Diego Christian, VS Arkansas-Pine Bluff, VS Texas Southern, VS UC Santa Barbara, VS Point Loma Nazarene, VS San Francisco (Diamond Head Classic), VS Cal State Bakersfield.
Non-Conference Schedule Prediction: 11-2 (Losses VS UCLA*, VS Arizona*)
While it may sound ridiculous to predict that the Aztecs will beat Syracuse in their opening game, but near home court advantage and the experience that is on San Diego state's team it isn't all that crazy of a notion. UCLA may be a little too much for the Aztecs to handle, and a probable matchup with Ole' Miss and then Arizona in the Diamondhead Classic should add 2 losses to the win-lose column. The strength of the Aztec's schedule should overall benefit the Aztecs whether they get a lot or a few wins as it prepares them for an arduous last season in the MWC.