Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Mountain West Showdown

Who would've thought the game of the week would be be played in Utah?  In a game that is being called the biggest battle in Mountain West history, the San Diego State Aztecs visit the Brigham Young Cougars.  San Diego State currently is ranked #4 in the country and is one of two undefeated teams left, while BYU is ranked #9 and is led by Jimmer Fredette, the leading scorer in the nation.  This marks the first time two top ten MWC teams will face off in the history of the conference and it provides the toughest test for SDSU in their run at a clean slate.  This game features two premiere guards, but as always this game will be won inside.

Jimmer Fredette, averaging just under 27 points per game, and D.J. Gay for the Aztecs, will be battling it out in the perimeter, but BYU must contain Kawhi Leonard in order to win.  Leonard is 6-7, but plays a lot taller, as he is averaging a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) a game.  His play in the paint will be extremely important, as the Cougars must limit his offensive boards.  Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock lead BYU in rebounding, each with around 6 per game.  They will have to feed off of each other and make sure to have a body on Leonard in order to secure rebounds, to allow Fredette to take over the game.

There is no doubt that Jimmer is the most talented player on the Cougars, but SDSU needs to remember to not get caught up on his shooting abilities.  Allowing Jimmer Fredette to pull up from 28-30 feet from the hoop for three pointers is perfectly fine, even though he is the ability to make it.  Fredette is very skilled going to the hoop as well, so the big men for the Aztecs need to rotate to step up on him.  Many of the perimeter defenders against Jimmer play up in his face in order to take away the outside jumper, but he simply blows by them and floats a tear drop before the big men can confront him.  They must force him to take tough shots or he can drop 40 points.

San Diego State offensive attack is a lot slower than most teams, in fact according to KenPom rankings, their pace is 306th in the country.  They rely a lot on their half-court offense, using the pick and roll effectively, and being smart with the ball.  They will not have many turnovers, which will allow them to dictate the pace of the game.  The one flaw in the Aztec offense is the terrible free throw shooting, as the team shoots 67% from the line.  If this game is close late, as we all expect it to be, the game could be won at the free throw line and the Aztecs better step up and make them or they could be going back to San Diego with their first loss.

Through all this, I think San Diego State is in fact a better team than the BYU Cougars; however, I still think BYU will win this game because they are playing at home.  Jimmer Fredette is coming off a great stretch of games and I believe he will have more than 30 points against the Aztecs.  Unless Kawhi Leonards dominates the paint, I don't think they can win in Provo, Utah.  

Prediction: 73-71 Cougars

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