Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Keys to an upset

New Mexico State fans believe that a victory over New Mexico in December should give the Aggies confidence they can beat San Diego State, another Mountain West team, in Thursday's NCAA Tournament match up.
The Lobos took two of three from the Aztecs, who are ranked No. 13 in the country and seeded No. 4 in the West Region. It's true the Aggies are built similar to the Lobos, from the inside out while leaning on defending and rebounding. But the Aggies' weaknesses, namely playing loose with the ball and their own deficiencies offensively, play into the strengths of the Aztecs.
San Diego State was seeded No. 4 in the West Region for a reason.
But if the Aztecs are slightly off and doubts start to creep into their heads about recent early round NCAA Tournament exits, and the Aggies play their best game of the season, an upset isn't far fetched.
It is March Madness after all.

Ball security
Aggies players and coaches pointed to the fact that Western Athletic Conference opponents pressed the Aggies this season. They did it for a reason. Seattle forced 16 turnovers in the Aggies' two-point WAC Tournament victory last week. Chicago State forced 33 turnovers in the two meetings against the Aggies this season.
And this isn't Seattle or Chicago State.
San Diego State's pressure and length won't let up for 40 minutes on Thursday. The Aztecs are eight or nine players deep and they all range from 6-foot-3 to 6-foot-9. They pressure the ball on the inbounds while another player jumps the ball handler. San Diego State forces nearly 13 turnovers per game with seven steals per game. When they are clicking, they average 70.6 points per game. One or two significant runs created by turnovers and easy buckets against the Aggies could end this game early.
It's what the Aztecs thrive on and it should be the biggest challenge junior guard Daniel Mullings has faced since assuming the point guard position.
Mullings has responded well, averaging 15.6 points and 4.2 assists per game the past five games. More importantly, he's turned the ball over just seven times during that span.

Play through Sim Bhullar
Open shots won't be there unless the Aggies get the ball inside. Bhullar wasn't involved in the Aggies offense in last year's NCAA Tournament loss to Saint Louis, attempting four shots in a 20-point loss.
Bhullar's 1.4 assists per game rank fourth on the team this year. An aggressive Bhullar early and often will allow the Aggies to dictate tempo inside. SDSU will defend the post one of two ways. The Aztecs could deny the post by fronting Bhullar and junior center Tshilidzi Nephawe with help behind and perhaps even sagging one of their 6-foot-7 wing players into the paint. Or the Aztecs can allow the ball into the post and trap on the touch to get the ball out of the paint. San Diego State's interior players are physical and athletic, but getting the ball into Bhullar will either lead to points (he's averaging 14.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game the past seven games), open shots for perimeter players or result in free throws for the Aggies. The paint is the Aggies obvious advantage in terms of size. NMSU needs to take advantage of it.

Connect from long distance
Upsets occur when the underdog jumps out to a quick lead, the neutral site fans get behind them and they hang on to advance. There is no better way to get going than to hit a few open 3-pointers.
In its best victory of the season, NMSU hit seven 3-pointers in the first half at New Mexico and held on for a 67-61 victory. This year's team is better equipped to hit from long range than last year's NCAA team. The Aggies are shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range. DK Eldridge is shooting 40 percent for the season, hitting 6-for-9 the past three games. Aggies senior Kevin Aronis has been terrific from 3-point range this season, shooting 44 percent. In extended minutes, freshman guard Ian Baker has also hit 36 percent of his attempts from 3.

Aronis will need time to get open and get a shot off against SDSU's length, but if Aronis and Eldridge connect for five to seven 3s, either in transition or from interior touches, it could put the Aztecs on their heels and give the Aggies post players some room to operate as the game goes on.


Anonymous said...

thursday's score will be:


Anonymous said...

Jason, you nailed it, hopefully K. Aronis and DK can nail a few 3's as well. I like your Sim analysis, I think too often people look at his points and rebounds and think that's the impact he has on a game. His passing, his ability to take up space on defense and his altering of shots are so critical to our play. I look forward to seeing Daniel and DK guarding Thames, hopefully our studs can neutralize their studs. The Aztecs are gonna draw fouls, I hope our guys stay out of foul trouble. Going 7 to 8 deep tonight is gonna require solid minutes out of the bench. I think this is gonna be a fun game to watch. Lets go AGGS

Anonymous said...

Great analysis, Jason,

Somebody on our team is going to have to step up major. That player will need to be someone other than (in addition to) Mullings. Mullings is great if he is playing well in consort with another player or group of players. If we rely solely on him, expect lots of turnovers and boneheaded plays....

I like DK early and often, then to the big guys, then Mullings.

It will be a great test of our coaching and players.

If we show up and make this a real game, I will be the first to admit that MM did a good job! Let's see what we do against real, actual, honest to goodness competition.

Go Aggies!