It’s finally November and the college basketball season is only days away from officially starting. After previewing the Aztecs non-conference schedule, here, we will now take a look at their conference slate of games as they will look to repeat as the regular season champions.
1/1 vs. New Mexico – The Lobos return two of the top players in the conference in Elijah Brown (21.7 points per game as a sophomore) and Tim Williams (16.8 points per game as a Junior) and have a roster that should have them competing for a regular season conference championship. While this game will likely come down to the end, the home team Aztecs should be feeding off their fans, and get the job done at Viejas. Win.
1/4 at Nevada – There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the Wolfpack basketball team this year. They return Cameron Oliver, who is a preseason all Mountain West Player, and have a slew of talented transfers becoming eligible this year. UNR played the Aztecs close both times last year, and after a tough home win against New Mexico, I could see Cameron Oliver being too much for the Aztecs, and them suffering their first loss of conference play. Loss.
1/7 at Boise State – The Broncos should finish in the top half of the conference, but they are not the same team as the last two years talentwise. Nick Duncan and Paris Austin are both very talented but SDSU’s on a different level. Win.
1/10 vs. San Jose State – Aztecs should be able to run away early from an overmatched Spartans team. Win.
1/14 vs. Utah State – Jalen Moore is a preseason first team all-conference player, but outside of him, SDSU is the superior team. Win.
1/17 at UNLV – After all the drama of last season, this is a UNLV team that is not ready to compete with the top tier teams in the Mountain West. Win.
1/24 at Air Force – Hayden Graham and CJ Siples lead a Falcons team that should be improved from last year, but the Aztecs superior length and athleticism should give their Princeton offense fits. Win.
1/28 vs Colorado State – Emmanuel Omogbo and Gian Clavell lead a Rams team that was predicted to finish 7th in the conference this year. Clavell is a high volume scorer but outside of him the Rams don’t have a go-to a player who can take over if the Aztecs are able to shut him down. Win.
1/31 vs. Wyoming – It’s looking like it’ll be a down year for Wyoming, as do-everything scorer Josh Adams has graduated, and now the reigns will be handed over to Jason McManamen. While McManamen shot a blistering 44% from 3-pt range, and averaged 15 points per game, that was with opposing team keying on Josh Adams. Win.
2/4 at Fresno State – Mountain West Player of the year Marvelle Harris is gone, but coach Rodney Terry is bringing in one of the top recruiting classes in the conference to go along with his top two returners Karachi Edo and Cullen Russo. Furthermore, the Aztecs have struggled over the past two seasons playing at Fresno, and this Fresno State team should be more balanced than years past. Loss.
2/7 at San Jose State – If in fact SDSU is coming off a loss to Fresno State, the Spartans could get pummeled in this game. Win.
2/12 vs. Nevada – SDSU’s talent and home court advantage should be too much for the Wolfpack to handle in this match up between to two of the conference’s top three teams. Win.
2/15 at Utah State – This game has the potential to be a lot closer than it should. The Aztecs, coming off a big win against Reno, and having to travel to Logan to play in a notoriously tough environment, could be in line for a letdown game. Even if that happens, SDSU should come out victorious. Win.
2/19 vs. UNLV – The Rebels won’t suffer the same drubbing that they did last year at Viejas, but this team isn’t going to be the one that ends the losing streak versus the Aztecs. Win.
2/22 vs. Fresno State – As has been the case with these two teams over the past few seasons, this contest will likely come down to the end, with the Aztecs defense making plays late to pull out a win at home. Win.
2/25 at Colorado State – With travel, altitude and playing on short rest after a tough game against Fresno State, SDSU could be in for a close game at Moby Arena. The nice thing for them though, is Malik Pope usually has an exceptional night when playing at CSU, and fueled by a huge night by the junior forward, the Aztecs escape victorious. Win.
3/1 vs. Air Force – The only potential risk with this game, is if the Aztecs get caught looking ahead to their date with the Lobos three days after this. My bet is on Coach Fisher having his team ready to play for this one. Win.
3/4 at New Mexico – For the schedulers and the fans, if all goes right, this game will decide the regular season championship and provide a great end to the regular season. As much as I want to pick against UNM here, this is a matchup that will favor them since it’ll be played on their home court in a very hostile environment. Loss.
Conference Record: 15-3
Overall Record: 26-4
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the 2016-2017 Aztecs Men’s Basketball team, and deservedly so. They are loaded with talented group of returners and also bring a group of talented newcomers. The main point of excitement this year is the potential for a team that is significantly more talented on the offensive end of the floor. If the Aztecs can improve in that area, while also maintaining their top notch level of defense, they should finish the season with enough wins to return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last year.
The Aztecs play their first preseason exhibition game against the U.C. San Diego Tritons on Thursday, November 3rd, at 7 p.m. at Viejas Arena.