San Diego State (13-5, 2-2) travels to Utah (9-8, 2-1) for a match-up of last year's MWC Tournament final game, which the Utes won 52-50. The two teams played three times last season with the Utes prevailing in Utah and in Vegas, and the Aztecs winning in San Diego.
Utah is coming of a huge road win against UNLV at the Thomas and Mack Center contributing to the chaos that is a wide open Mountain West at this point. The non-conference records indicated a clear demarcation between the good teams (UNM, SDSU,UNLV,BYU) and the rest, but conference play has thrown everything off and left it wide open. This game looks like another one that could go the way of the underdog, as SDSU has historically struggled at Utah and has this season struggled mightily on the road. Indeed, the Aztecs have only won twice ever at the Hunstman center.
The Utes are coming off a huge win in a close game at UNLV, a place where SDSU lost two games before. Looking at the box score, the Utes shot well including 50% of their 3s and only allowed UNLV to make 1 of their 12 attempts at the long ball; not to mention they made more of their free-throws which is always key in close games. Nevertheless, any road game in the Mountain West is very tough to win and it is especially good in Vegas where the Mountain West Tournament is which is the only way Utah will get into the NCAA tournament.
They Utes have been inconsistent all season, so they will have to have one of their "good" games to beat the Aztecs, but given their success at home against the Aztecs, it is a good bet that they will go out and play a good game tonight. Utah has some really good wins and some really good losses and hasn't been particularly good at home this season, posting a 6-4 record.
San Diego State has also been inconsistent this season, but it has to do with where they are playing. The Aztecs are undefeated at home but only 4-5 on the road. They seem to play down to the level of their opponents on the road and then get frustrated and start to press, which leads to turnovers and bad decisions. To win the game tonight, they will have to play as a team and not make mistakes when something doesn't go their way.
While the Aztecs did manage to erase a 14 point deficit against TCU, they really need to play better defense if they want to win games against actual good teams. I guess it is possible and it was just TCU's "night" but SDSU needs to play 40 minutes. Injuries and lack of depth may contribute to this, but as soon as they players buy into Coach Fisher and start playing as a team, they will be a force to be reckoned with.