1. The Matadors are returning four of their top five scorers from last year, and ranked in the top 50 nationally in points per game. How well do you think this high-powered offense will match up against a long, athletic defense in SDSU?
It will be difficult for the Matadors, especially if their bench is stretched thin again. Coach Reggie Theus believes in playing basketball around defense and getting to the rim, so it will take efforts from the entire team to score points against an athletic Aztec team. CSUN's offensive effort against the Aztecs starts with their defense creating easy offensive buckets in transition.
2. Between Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee II and J.J. O'Brien, the Matadors' two star players Stephan Hicks and Stephen Maxwell are going to have their hands full the whole game. Who needs to step up on offense to take the load off these two stars?
CSUN's third leading scorer Josh Greene graduated after last season, so guard Landon Drew needs to fill that void by hitting key shots to keep the team in the game when Hicks and Maxwell aren't in a groove offensively. Drew has had a key role for the Matadors the past two seasons, but now steps into the role as the full time starting point guard. Drew has an ability to find his teammates, but he will need to step up as a scoring threat since he is matched up against freshmen Kevin Zabo. Drew scoring aggressively will not only make life easier for Maxwell and Hicks but should make finding guard Aaron Parks and center Tre Hale-Edmerson even easier.
3. With "several" players being reported out for the season opener, how will the Matadors be able to overcome a limited bench? (Note, also reported that none of the players that are out are starters.)
Last season, this team relied on 7-8 bodies so the key returners are used to playing big minutes. If that is the case again, they will rely on getting to the free throw line to help limit fatigue. CSUN was one of the best free throw shooting teams in the entire nation a year ago, so the formula should not change.
4. SDSU will be missing two of their best shooters (Matt Shrigley and Malik Pope), and might struggle to hit outside shots throughout the game. In fact, the Aztecs did not hit one 3-pointer in their preseason game against Point Loma Nazarene. How can the Matadors take advantage of this lack of shooting?
CSUN gave up a ton of threes (11-24) in the exhibition against Dominguez Hills. They also gave up crucial ones against Cal Poly in their conference championship game a year ago, so SDSU not having good shooters limits a Matador weakness. CSUN themselves do not shoot 3s well, which means the Matadors can play this game at the rim and at the line, their preferred style of play.
5. CSUN will win if...
They can limit forward Skylar Spencer. Much of the Matadors game relies on attacking and Spencer has the blocking ability to neutralize that. The 6-foot-10 forward is an imposing force on the defensive side for SDSU and the Matadors don't have the size to match up with him. Six-foot-7 center Tre Hale-Edmerson must accept the challenge and attack him offensively. Emerson has shown ability to stretch the floor which should help neutralize Spencer. However, the Matadors will also need the lengthy Emerson to bang Spencer inside for some rebounds. CSUN needs to make Spencer foul them so they can get to the line and put the Aztec on the pine.
6. SDSU will win if...
They keep CSUN off of the free throw line. The Matadors' game revolves around getting to the rim and getting to the free throw line because they don't have consistent 3-point shooters to play otherwise. If the Aztecs limit this team's free throw attempts, not only will CSUN struggle to find points but they will also run out of gas with such a small rotation.