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USA Today: San Diego State basketball 'could and should be an Elite Eight team'

SDSU's 2014 preseason sure feels different than it did last year.

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Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

USA Today writer Scott Gleeson published his San Diego State Aztecs team preview yesterday. He wrote lots of opinions and predictions about the 2014-15 Aztecs squad, but none bolder than this: "(SDSU) could and should be an Elite Eight team."

Woah. That's a doozy.

Gleeson wrote that despite the loss of the Xavier Thames and Josh Davis, Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee II, J.J. O'Brien and Steve Fisher's 2014 recruiting class will push the Aztecs once again to the top of the Mountain West. Their veteran experience, Gleeson wrote, make them a potential Elite Eight team.

Two of SDSU's recruits--Malik Pope and Zylan Cheatham--form a part of SDSU's frontcourt, which Gleeson called one of SDSU's strengths this year besides experience and defense..

"With Shepard, Polee, 6-7 senior O'Brien (7.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg), 6-10 junior Skylar Spencer (4.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and 6-9 junior Angelo Chol (an Arizona transfer), the frontcourt should be one of the most athletic in the country," Gleeson wrote.

This preview wasn't all positive. Gleeson also identified SDSU's weakness: its young backcourt. He wrote that freshmen Trey Kell and Kevin Zabo should earn minutes right away, and they'll man the backcourt with senior Aqeel Quinn, sophomore D'Erryl Williams and sophomore Dakarai Allen. This unit will try to replace the Thames-led backcourt production of last year.

Gleeson wrote that Shepard is the star to watch, Polee is the team's x-factor and Pope is SDSU's key newcomer. He also ventured into NCAA Tournament predictions, pegging SDSU as 5-seed automatic bid from the MWC. Gleeson also looked at SDSU's non-conference schedule and gave it a B- in terms of difficulty, writing that SDSU will face tough challenges on the road this year.

Only one other MWC team is in Gleeson's top 68, so far: UNLV is ranked No. 36. Three other California teams find themselves in the top 68, so far: UCI at No. 58, UCLA at No. 29 and Stanford at No. 25. Some of SDSU's non-conference foes are also in Gleeson's top 68. Utah, whom the Aztecs play November 18, is No. 31. SDSU's first-round opponent in the 2014 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational, BYU, is No. 45. A couple of SDSU's potential opponents are ranked, as well: Pittsburgh (Maui Invitational) is No. 30 and Kansas State (Maui Invitational) is No. 28.