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NCAA Tournament: San Diego State vs. NC State Preview

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The San Diego State Aztecs (26-7) will take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack (22-12) at 9:40 PT this morning. The game will be televised on truTV.

The Aztecs, the 6 seed in the Midwest Region, will attempt to be the second Mountain West team to move on in the Tournament. The New Mexico Lobos defeated Long Beach State yesterday to make it to the next round, while both UNLV and Colorado State went down in defeat.

The Aztecs are 6-6 against teams in the NCAA Tournament this year, while the Wolfpack is just 4-9.

For San Diego State to be successful, they’re going to need quality games out of James Rahon and Xavier Thames. Everyone knows the damage that Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley can inflict, and they’ve mostly been consistent this season. And Tim Shelton, the leader of the 2012 Aztecs, will surely show up ready to play.

Xavier Thames has looked brilliant at times. He has the potential to be one of the better, if not the best, point guards in the west. Yet his play has been inconsistent. The Aztecs need him to run the floor and avoid turnovers.

James Rahon has been a bit of a mystery this season. He began the season injured, and then took time to regain his 2011 form. When he’s on, he’s a stellar weapon. He knocks down threes while playing shut-down defense. But there are nights when he goes completely cold. In his last game, against the New Mexico Lobos, Rahon shot 0-12 with 0 rebounds and 1 assist in 22 minutes of play. He must produce something for the Aztecs to have any chance at moving on.

The NC State Wolfpack, meanwhile, will be led by standouts C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, and Richard Howell. They have a definite size advantage over the Aztecs which could play a major factor in the game. Leslie and Howell have the ability to take control of the boards, and the Aztecs can’t let that happen. As with all season long, the Aztecs are going to need Deshawn Stephens and Garrett Green to contribute big.

Expect a close game. San Diego State has a tendency to play to their opponent’s level. Unlike their MW Championship game against the Lobos, the Aztecs should be rested and ready to go here. A number of analysts have predicted a round one upset, but don’t think for a second that Steve Fisher is going to allow his team to play poorly. This game will come down to the wire, and that’s when clutch playing (Franklin) and coaching (Fisher) really steps in.

The winner of the game will go on to play Georgetown (3) or Belmont (14) in the next round.