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San Diego St. (4-0) at Miami (2-2)

Miami concludes the 2010 CBE Classic with the San Diego State Aztecs, who come in unbeaten after a 15 point win over IUPUI Sunday night. The Aztecs are the favorites to win the Mountain West and are expected to make a deep run in March.  They’re expected to do so because they returned, with the exception of one, all of their key players from last year’s squad that lost a heartbreaker to Tennessee in the 1st round of last year’s NCAA tournament.  Coach Steve Fisher arguably has his best team since he went to San Diego and possibly his best since he coached the Fab 5.  They’ve lived up to their early hype by going into the Kennel and beating Gonzaga 79-76, leading almost the entire game.  They have experience and skill in the backcourt, and they’re deep and athletic up front.  If I had to describe them in one word, I’d say they’re “versatile”.  They can run or slow it down, shoot, rebound, and play defense.  The Aztecs will be the best team to come to Oxford all year.

Probable Starters

DJ Gay, 6’ Sr.  11 pts,  3 ass.  47% FG, 44% 3PFG, 55% FT.  Looks to setup his teammates first, but he’s a very capable scorer.  Plays under control, especially when he puts it on the floor.  He can hit the pullup, step back, and spot up jump shots. 

Chase Tapley, 6’2” So.  9 pts, 2 reb.  63% FG, 14% 3PFG, 60% FT.  More of a slasher than a shooter.  Good rebounder for a guard.  Good on-ball defender.

Kawhi Leonard, 6’7” So.  21 pts, 11 reb, 3 ass.  50% FG, 37% 3PFG, 75% FT.  This guy reminds me of Carmelo Anthony.  Handles the ball well for a guy his size.  He can take you outside beyond the 3 point line.  He has all the moves:  jab step, 2 hard dribble pull up, and step back 3.  He can post you up as well.  But he’s also very unselfish, always makes the correct decision.  Relentless on the glass.

Billy White, 6’8” Sr.  14 pts, 6 reb.  69% FG, 50% 3PFG.  Another multi-talented forward.  He can take you off the dribble.  He’ll hit the floater in the lane.  He can post you up and hit the baby hook.  He’s also a legitimate 3 point threat.  Another great rebounder, he plays with a lot of energy.

Malcolm Thomas, 6’9” Sr.  6 pts, 6 reb.  41% FG, 41% FT.  Good athlete, good rebounder, looks to block shots on the defensive end.   Can score with his back to the basket.   Prone to foul trouble.

Off the Bench

James Rahon, 6’5” So.  8 pts, 2 reb.  59% FG, 50% 3PFG.  Biggest offensive threat off the bench.  Very much a 2 guard.  Can score off of curls, off the dribble or off passes.

Tom Shelton, 6’7” Jr.  3 pts, 2 reb.  36% FG.  Wide body who takes up space under the glass.

Brian Carlwell, 6’11” Sr.  3 pts, 2 reb.  50% FG, 60% FT.  Wider body via Illinois.  He’s a beast on the glass but has a nice touch around the hoop.

The Aztecs do a great job of spreading the floor offensively, they make everyone play defense.  They want to attack the basket and so with high and wing pick and rolls.  They love to run curls for Leonard and Rahon who consistently make the 15-17 foot elbow jumper.  Leonard will play some point guard and when he does, he usually bounces an entry pass to the high post and goes back door.  If the back door isn’t open, he and usually Rahon come off a staggered screen on the weak side, Leonard being the 2nd guy through, and he’s usually open.  If Gay bounces an entry into the high post, he’ll get the ball back on a handoff and fire a quick 3.  But the Aztecs will mostly keep moving, pick and roll, cut and fill, and space the floor, then crash the glass once the shot goes up.

Defensively, the Aztecs don’t pressure the perimeter in their half-court man, instead building a wall in the lane, forcing you to hit outside shots, which you’ll get plenty of, as Gonzaga did last week.  Steven Gray had over 30 because he was able to step into shots.  But if you don’t hit your 1st attempt, you probably won’t get a 2nd because of the Aztecs rebounding prowess.  The Aztecs will run and jump in the backcourt after a made free throw.  Because they’re so big and crash the glass hard, you can score in transition on them.

One of the biggest things that stood out to me about the Aztecs is how for such a good team, everyone plays within themselves.  No one tries to do too much, everyone knows their role, and they play together.  Miami will need a great shooting, rebounding, and defensive performance to stay with San Diego St.

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