Two seasons ago an 11-1 San Diego State Aztecs basketball team went in to Allen Fieldhouse and did something that not many teams do,which was defeat the Kansas Jayhawks. On that day No. 21 San Diego State beat No. 16 Kansas, 61-57. Nearly two years later the Jayhawks make the trek to Viejas Arena to return the favor.
These two teams couldn't be any more different. Kansas is ranked second in the nation, they're 9-1, and have four players averaging double figures in scoring. On the other hand, San Diego State comes limping in to this matchup at 7-5 after losing to Grand Canyon on Friday night at home.
The Jayhawks are a team that gets a bulk of its scoring from its guards. Wayne Selden Jr. is the team's leading scorer at 16 points per game. Once considered a bust after being a five star prospect coming out of high school, Selden has stepped up in his junior year to lead a dangerous Kansas attack. Junior guards Devontae Graham and Frank Mason III are also averaging over ten points a game. All three guards see a lot of time on the floor as they are averaging over 28 minutes a game. This means that guarding the perimeter will be important for an Aztec team that has had trouble defending the three-point line.
San Diego State won't be able to sell out on the guards as the Jayhawks have some legitimate post players that will keep the Aztec big men busy. Senior Perry Ellis is second on the team with 14.7 points and first on the team with 6.2 rebounds per game. Add highly touted freshmen Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo to the mix and you have a Kansas team that can beat you from the outside and inside.
San Diego State comes into this game a team in flux. Instead of feeding off their seniors the team is riding two freshmen. Freshman guard Jeremy Hemsley has exceeded expectation and is leading the team in scoring, averaging 13.4 points per game.
Zylan Cheatham is the hardest working player on this team and coach Steve Fisher has already changed his lineup four games into the season relegating seniors Skylar Spencer and Winston Shepard as well as sophomore Malik Pope to the bench. The biggest problem with the team has been a lack of energy. Once on the floor the Aztecs are not showing any passion. They get beat to loose balls, outrebounded by smaller opponents, and are late to defend. This team is exact opposite of the teams that came before them.
Beating a Kansas team this deep and talented is going to be a difficult task. Coming out and playing uninspired against Kansas is not an option and if the Aztecs do play like they have been playing most of the season then they will get blown out. Helmsley, Dakarai Allen, and Trey Kell will need to guard the perimeter better than they have this season. Stopping penetration will be key in containing a healthy Kansas offense. Spencer and Cheatham will have to come up big defensively against the Kansas bigs. They can't allow dunks and layups for easy points.
Offensively the Aztecs will need to win this game from the inside out. San Diego State can't afford to just dribble around the perimeter. They're attack will need to be explosive and decisive. The Aztecs will need to run and attack the rim in order to create offense. Cheatham's speed, Pope's explosiveness, and Helmsley's ability to attack the basket need to be key, especially early in the game. Once the game opens up down low, then the three point shot should be available for Kell, Allen, and Ben Perez.
A victory is possible, however the margin of error is extremely slim. Defensively the Aztecs will need to rebound, contain the guards, and not give up layups. Offensively they will need to attack the basket, score fast break and second chance points, and avoid turnovers. If the Aztecs can do this then they can pick up a crucial victory over a really good Kansas team
This game tips at 11 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.