San Diego State Aztecs vs Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
Tipoff: December 22, 2PM HST (4PM PST)
The Aztecs return to the Diamond Head Classic after a 4-year hiatus that featured a nail-biter against Arizona in the final round. This time around the Aztecs are happy to ride a victory against Alabama State into the islands after coming off a very rare 3-game losing streak against Loyola (Ill.), Grand Canyon and Arizona State.
For the Aztecs, just who are these guys? As Coach Steve Fisher has said, “People know San Diego State (basketball) for two things: Kawhi Leonard and defense.” During their losing streak the “vaunted” defense has allowed opponents to make over 45% of their shots. The defense showed up against Alabama State, shutting them down at 25%., but they have not been consistent this season during non-conference play. Frankly, this team feels like it doesn’t play together.
The Golden Eagles aren’t much to write home. They are currently 1-6 against Division I opponents with an RPI of 347 out of 351 schools. They are the floor of NCAA and Conference USA. It’s clearly a mismatch on paper.
Luck and skill favors the Aztecs. The last time the Aztecs and Golden Eagles met was in 2005, where the Aztecs won 79-51. During the last Aztecs appearance in the Diamond Head Classic, the Aztecs beat opening round opponent San Francisco.
The biggest question remains for the Aztecs. Does Malik Pope play to the potential of his hype? He might be heating up after having a good run against Alabama State where his 16 points led the team. The chances are slim that Pope starts to carry this team, but it’s going to be a question mark every game until he proves us otherwise.
The Aztecs are not only desperate for a win, they are desperate for a quality opponent. Hopefully if they rattle through Southern Miss and Stephen F Austin/Tulsa, they can pull quality opponent Utah.
Prediction: San Diego State 69, Southern Miss 50