By John Fanta
FOX Sports activities Faculty Basketball Author
Editor’s word: John Fanta is counting down his prime 15 faculty basketball groups at common intervals main as much as the beginning of the 2022-23 season. Checking in at No. 15 is San Diego State.
Over the previous three seasons, San Diego State has a mixed report of 76-16.
We are able to solely marvel what might have been for the Aztecs in 2020 had the NCAA Match not been canceled. They have been 30-2 on the time and crammed with potential for a deep run.
Coming into his sixth season on the helm, coach Brian Dutcher will enter this marketing campaign with nearly each field checked for the Aztecs to play deep into March. Take into consideration this: Dutcher is the one coach in program historical past to win at the very least 20 video games in every of his first 5 seasons. He’s additionally been to the Mountain West Championship Sport every year he’s been on the sideline, successful it twice.
Regardless of all of the regular-season success, Dutcher and the Aztecs have but to interrupt by way of in March. After collapsing final 12 months in opposition to Creighton within the first spherical of the NCAA Match, there’s loads of motivation to flip the script on the massive dance flooring this 12 months.
This is why the Aztecs are poised for an enormous 2022-23 season, and why they’re No. 15 in my preseason rankings.
There’s no scarcity of expertise — will probably be the perfect trait of this workforce.
The Aztecs return 4 of their 5 starters from final 12 months’s 23-9 workforce, with fifth-year senior Matt Bradley main the way in which. The 6-foot-4 guard transferred from California following the 2020-21 season and made an immediate impression, being named an all-conference first-teamer and the Mountain West Newcomer of the 12 months.
Matt Bradley drops 26 factors on Colorado State
Matt Bradley scored a season-high 26 factors in a 79-49 victory over Colorado State final season.
The workforce wanted somebody to steer the ship offensively, and Bradley took the function and ran with it. He averaged 16.9 factors and 5.4 boards per recreation, capturing 44% from the ground and 40% from 3. Bradley’s return to this system is big for scoring stability, and he’s on monitor to be among the best guards within the nation outdoors the Energy 6.
Junior Lamont Butler will be part of Bradley within the backcourt and run level for the Aztecs. He averaged 7.3 factors and a couple of.1 assists final season, however actually made an impression on protection, the place his 46 steals ranked second within the Mountain West and landed him a spot on the convention’s all-defense workforce.
Sixth-year senior guard Adam Seiko, a stable function participant who averaged 23.5 minutes per recreation and can doubtless come off the bench, is again for one final season.
The massive piece of stories within the Aztecs’ offseason got here when 6-foot-10 star Nathan Mensah, the reigning Mountain West Defensive Participant of the 12 months, introduced he would return for his senior season. Mensah’s 71 blocks led the convention and ranked thirtieth nationally final season, and his aggressive presence provides the Aztecs game-changing rim safety and protection on the inside.
Nathan Mensah throws down NASTY slam
Nathan Mensah offered the San Diego State Aztecs with a spark in opposition to the Colorado State Rams throughout a contest final season.
Mensah was reportedly leaning towards going professional following discussions with a number of NBA scouts, brokers, entrance workplace personnel and draft specialists, however modified his thoughts after he was not one of many 120 invitees to the NBA and G League combines in Chicago.
Mensah’s presence makes the Aztecs one of many hardest opponents for an offense to match up in opposition to. Along with making an NCAA Match run, the senior may also be trying to evolve his offensive recreation after averaging 7.0 factors and 6.9 boards final season.
Becoming a member of Mensah among the many returnees within the frontcourt is 6-foot-7 senior Keshad Johnson, who began all 32 video games final season and averaged 7.2 factors and 4.5 boards in 23.8 minutes.
Aguek Arop, a 6-foot-6 wing who’s been with this system from the beginning of his collegiate profession, can be returning for a fifth season. Cade Alger, a 6-foot-9 ahead, returns for his junior 12 months.
The offseason aim: Discover. Scoring.
San Diego State can defend in addition to anyone.
The truth is, the Aztecs completed at No. 2 within the nation in KenPom’s adjusted defensive effectivity rankings final season.
For this workforce to make a serious run, it’s going to want extra than simply Bradley to piece collectively huge scoring efforts.
Who’s new on the roster?
Dutcher hit the portal in search of offense, and he discovered it by way of Seattle College switch Darrion Trammell.
Trammell averaged 18.7 factors and 5.1 assists over the previous two seasons and is considered one of solely two gamers listed at 5-foot-10 or shorter to attain greater than 1,000 factors in that span. Two years in the past, his 20.5 PPG led the WAC and ranked within the prime 20 within the nation. He is additionally significantly powerful to cease in pick-and-roll conditions. In keeping with Synergy Sports activities, he averaged 6.9 PPG in these conditions final season, the fifth-best mark within the nation.
It will likely be attention-grabbing to see how these numbers translate to the Mountain West, however Trammell doesn’t must gentle it up for this Aztecs workforce. He simply has to have the ability to ship a constant scoring spark, and he’ll doubtless be a starter this season.
A possible X-factor for the Aztecs is two-time switch Jaedon LeDee, who began his profession at Ohio State earlier than heading to TCU. After sitting out for a redshirt season as a consequence of NCAA switch guidelines, LeDee might give SDSU a unique dimension offensively together with his bodily 6-foot-9, 240-pound body.
He averaged 5.8 factors and three.9 boards in 15.2 minutes for TCU in 2020-21. The query will probably be simply how a lot he can profit from the transfer to San Diego State, and a 12 months of growth with Dutcher and his workers.
The opposite key switch portal acquisition is 6-foot-5 wing Micah Parrish. The previous Oakland standout averaged 12.1 factors and 6.0 boards, together with 15.3 factors over the ultimate 11 video games of his sophomore season. Taking pictures 35% from past the arc this previous season, Parrish might serve a fringe function within the Aztecs’ offense.
Projected beginning 5
— G: Lamont Butler, 6-foot-2, junior
— G: Darrion Trammell, 5-foot-10, senior (Seattle College)
— G: Matt Bradley, 6-foot-4, senior (fifth 12 months)
— F: Keshad Johnson, 6-foot-7, senior
— F: Nathan Mensah, 6-foot-10, senior (fifth 12 months)
San Diego State has expertise, toughness and an additional supply of motivation. The Aztecs will probably be battle-tested in non-conference play, which is highlighted by a visit to the Maui Invitational.
This workforce definitely has that psychological hurdle of NCAA Match struggles to get previous. However with so many returning gamers, to not point out three key transfers who’re projected to elevate the workforce offensively, Dutcher has assembled a roster that would dominate the Mountain West.
What is going to decide this workforce’s ceiling? Offensive development. The Aztecs have been ranked No. 162 in KenPom adjusted offensive effectivity final season and completed useless final within the Mountain West with 192 3-pointers (6.0 per recreation).
For a 23-win workforce that was on the cusp of constructing the second spherical of the NCAA Match, that’s a testomony to how sturdy they have been on the defensive finish. If Dutcher can get this workforce to be much less predictable offensively, the Aztecs might completely get to the second weekend of the Huge Dance.
John Fanta is a nationwide faculty basketball broadcaster and author for FOX Sports activities. He covers the game in quite a lot of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Community to offering commentary on The Area of 68 Media Community. Comply with him on Twitter @John_Fanta.
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