Aztecs and Paladins battle in the second-round matchup in Orlando. Aztecs look to avoid an upset while Furman looks to continue their fairy tale march in March.
Fresh off another wild March Madness finish, the Furman Paladins are prepared to take on a formidable opponent in San Diego State. While visions of sugar plums dance in the minds of Furman players after taking down Virginia 68-67, a crash to the ground could be in order against the Aztecs. San Diego State had just enough petrol in the tank to fend off College of Charleston, a 12-seed, 63-57, on Thursday. Saturday's matchup on CBS, will be at 9:10 AM on the west coast. The Aztecs are an early 6-point favorite and seem to have more athleticism and talent to put the Paladins away. Furman averages 82.2 points per game, good for 11th in the country. While offensively proficient, they will be hard-pressed to score points against a vaunted Aztec defense that is 27th in the NCAA, giving up an average of 63.4 points per game. The Aztecs are extremely proficient at bench scoring, being 21st in the country with a 26.56-point per-game average. As mentioned in previous articles, an Achilles heel for the Aztecs continues to be their free throw shooting. They shoot at a 72.89% clip, bad enough for 123 in the country. In a close game, the Aztecs could be taken down for their stripe ineptness. That might be a concern if they advance past Furman. Head Coach Bob Richey has the Paladins believing and their 28-7 record stands in support of that. After all, it is March and anything can happen. So far ask Princeton, Penn State, Auburn and Pitt, as early first-round Cinderellas.
Furman, as mentioned is 28-7 on the year, winners of the Southern Conference. They have won seven games in a row. Their season work includes a close loss to Penn State, a blowout loss to North Carolina State and a convincing win against South Carolina, They are led by leading scorer, guard Mike Bothwell with 17.8 points per game. Behind him is forward Jalen Slawson with 15.8 points and guard JP Pegues, fresh off the Virginia game winner, with 12 points per game. I expect a workman-like effort by the Aztecs, as they will douse the few runs Furman puts together. A 72-68 prediction looks to be in order as a bracket buster game is not likely in the cards. The Aztecs need to be sure to avoid injuries, heading into a season highlight game against Alabama in the Sweet 16.