It's no Jimmer vs. Kawhi, but tomorrow the San Diego State Aztecs (3-0) and the BYU Cougars (3-0) will renew a classic Mountain West rivalry in the championship round of the 2014 EA SPORTS Maui Invitational.
Imagine two completely and totally opposite college basketball teams duking it out to see whether dominant offense or dominant defense rules the day. Well, that's what you'll get tomorrow night.
The Aztecs put a top-5 defense on the floor and the Cougars score with the best offenses in the country. In other words? This will be fun.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Steve Fisher's squad opened the 2014-15 campaign with an impressive 79-58 win over Cal State Northridge, significantly overmanning the Matadors on offense and defense.
If anything, SDSU's defense improved over the next two games, allowing just 49 points against a Utah team averaging nearly 76 per game, and just 27 points against a Cal State Bakersfield team averaging 60 a game.
SDSU's offense has fallen off dramatically since the season opener, though. It shot just 33 percent against Utah and a staggeringly bad 25 percent against Bakersfield. Players and coaches all say the team is confident in its shooting and that shots will eventually fall. But it's definitely safe to say the Aztecs won't reach their lofty goals if they make a habit of shooting 25 percent.
BYU has averaged 95.7 points in its three wins. The Cougars are shooting over 50 percent and averaging more than 20 assists per game. No, the Cougars haven't faced tough competition, but this offense is scary-good no matter the opponent.
BYU's defense is middle-of-the-road. It's strong on the boards, averaging more than 30 rebounds per game, but doesn't have a strong defensive post presence, averaging just over two blocks per game. Long Beach State, a team scoring 76.8 points per game, put 90 points on the board against BYU in the season opener.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
For BYU the obvious choice is 6-foot-5 guard Tyler Haws. This guy is starting the season on fire after a disappointing 2013-14 campaign, by his standards. He's averaging more than 17 points per game and he's draining nearly half his shots. Most impressive? He's knocking down about nine of every 10 free throws and he only has seven turnovers over three games. He's a deadly combination of raw offensive talent and basketball smarts.
SDSU's player to watch is guard Aqeel Quinn. Fisher told the media after the Utah game that Quinn always wants to guard the opponent's best player, and as a big 6-foot-3 guard, he matches up well with Haws. Quinn accepted the challenge to defend Utah's best player -- and one of the best players in the country -- in 6-foot-5 Delon Wright. Wright's a big guard/forward combo much like Haws. He's averaging 11 points per game this year, but against Quinn, he shot just 2-13 and didn't score until the last 1:22 of the game.
WHO HAS THE EDGE?
Time and time again we see defense wins in college basketball. Heck, even the San Antonio Spurs proved it works out that way in the NBA, as well. A team can control its tenacity and effort on defense, but it can't control if the ball goes in the hoop, so I'd put my money on a top-5 defense over a top-5 offense.
SDSU 69 BYU 61