Day/Date: Wednesday, January 8
Time: 8:05 p.m. PT
Where: Viejas Arena, San Diego
San Diego State knows that Boise State is good. And that may be a key to the Aztecs playing well when the teams tip off on Wednesday, January 8 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.
Every college hoops fan knows that Kansas is good. And the Aztecs went into Lawrence, Kansas, to historic Phogg Allen Fieldhouse, and did what very few teams ever do. They handed the Jayhawks a defeat on their own court. San Diego State, now ranked 13 in the AP and 15 in the Coaches Poll, will need that same type of intensity and focus to avoid a letdown and play well against Boise State.
The Boise St. Broncos (11-3) were picked in the preseason to finish second in the Mountain West, two places higher than San Diego State. A few media outlets even picked the Broncos to finish first. And going into the season, it's easy to see why. They returned all five starters and a total of nine letterwinners from an NCAA Tournament team last season, which is extremely rare in this one-and-done era of college basketball. That group includes three players who averaged double digits in points per game. Two juniors, Anthony Drmic (17.7 ppg) and Derrick Marks (16.3 ppg) along with senior sharpshooter Jeff Elorriaga (10.2 ppg) lead the guard heavy attack for the Broncos.
Conversely, San Diego State returned just two starters and six letterwinners from a season ago, and none of them were double digit scorers.
But college basketball, more than most other sports, is about potential, and the Aztecs have a lot of that. With five newcomers and another five players who are in just their second year on Montezuma Mesa, only Xavier Thames is a true veteran of Fisher's program. But what a difference a year makes.
The 12-1 Aztecs are the new favorite in the conference, having knocked off three ranked opponents during non-conference play. Thames is now healthy and leading the Aztecs from the point guard position. He was named the Mountain West Player of the Week, ESPN national player of the week and NetScouts Basketball's National Player of the Week. Tulane transfer Josh Davis has five double-doubles this season and is starting to feel more comfortable in his first year at San Diego State. Sophomores Winston Shepard and Skylar Spencer are coming into their own as well. J.J. O'Brien has been hampered by a sore right hand, but the bandage is finally off and he quietly plays a significant role.
What worked for the Aztecs against front-court focused teams like Kansas and Marquette won't be the right recipe for defeating Boise State. The Aztecs are effective at doubling the post and making big men turn the ball over or take ill-advised shots. Against Boise State, they can't afford to leave perimeter players open for three-point shots.
This game will depend on which team can impose its will and play its style of basketball. A low scoring game would favor the Aztecs while a shootout would give the Broncos the edge. The winner definitely gets a leg up in the conference standings.