SoonerScoop.com's RJ Young reached out to Rivals.com's San Diego State publisher Agustin Gonzalez from AztecSportsReport.com to get a feel for OU's first-round matchup in the NCAA Tournament. Young asked Gonzalez five questions that help give a better overall picture of the what the Sooners will be facing at 8:20 p.m. in Philadelphia.
After talking with Gonzalez, it appears Romero Osby, Andrew Fitzgerald and Amath M'Baye could find some success on the interior. But San Diego State has plenty of tourney experience and they seem to be getting healthy at just the right time. Read ahead to get the complete breakdown on OU's opponent this evening.
1) Junior guard Jamaal Franklin's ridiculous dunk off the backboard has folks talking about him. He leads SDSU in scoring (16.5 per game), rebounds (9.5 per game) and assists (3.2 per game). Assuming Oklahoma takes away his ability to score, who are the other Aztecs who might step up and make big plays?
Shooting guard Chase Tapley is SDSU's second biggest scoring threat. Tapley is a four-year starter who can make it rain from behind the arc but is more of a catch-and-shoot guy, so if teams keep a body on him on the perimeter he can struggle to create his own shot. Point guard Xavier Thames missed a good chunk of games during the conference season with a lingering back injury but he's close to 100 percent now and his scoring has really taken off. He's scored at least 11 points in four straight games. Franklin, Tapley and Thames are the three main scoring threats but forward J.J. O'Brien is a finesse scorer who can also get it done down low and James Rahon has been inconsistent all season, but when he's on he can be a dangerous three-point threat.
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2) What has been the typical makeup of teams that have beaten SDSU this year?
SDSU is a guard-oriented team, and has really struggled against bigger teams that have a true center and/or other long, tall forwards that are able to score and defend in the post (teams like Syracuse, Arizona, UNLV, Colorado State and New Mexico). The Aztecs don't have a true center (instead playing 6'8 DeShawn Stephens and 6'9 Skylar Spencer at the five spot), so bigger teams give SDSU fits, especially when they have one or two reliable three-point shooters to kick it out to.
3) What do you believe is the Aztecs' greatest weakness and their greatness strength?
SDSU's biggest weakness is probably the lack of an inside presence, which enables bigger teams to bully Stephens, O'Brien and Spencer down low and also hold their scoring in check. In addition, SDSU's outside shooting has been inconsistent all season long, which is a problem when you are a guard-oriented team. If the Aztecs hit their outside shots, they're capable of beating anyone in the country. If they don't, there's a good chance the other team wins because SDSU lacks that big man who can score inside when the shots aren't falling.
On the flipside, SDSU's greatest strength is its team defense. The Aztecs are allowing just 60.7 points per game this season, and are ranked 19th nationally in field-goal percentage defense (38.8 percent). SDSU's defense is its calling card, but its offense is the wild card.
4) How familiar are SDSU's upperclassmen with junior forward Amath M'Baye and what have they said about facing him in the past?
The players who have been with the team for three or four years are pretty familiar with M'Baye, as he played with Wyoming for two seasons before transferring to Oklahoma. They've said that he likes to shoot the mid-range, likes to run the pick and roll and pick and pop with him and Osby. Other than that, not too much. SDSU went 3-1 against Wyoming when M'Baye was there, and he'd been held in check offensively in those games but had some success rebounding the ball. Of course, this is a much different team than those SDSU squads were.
5) After winning 12 of its first 14 games, SDSU lost seven of its 16 conference matches and three of its last five games. What do you think has been the reason for the Aztecs' struggle to win games over the last three months?
A few big reasons. First, is that the Mountain West (the No. 1-rated league in RPI this season) is no joke, and every team besides New Mexico had trouble winning on the road in the conference this season. Second is that SDSU was hit by some pretty big injuries the second half of the season. Thames (back), Tapley (right shooting wrist) and Rahon (shoulder) -- three crucial contributors -- all missed time or were severely hampered in many of those losses. Finally, the Aztecs have had trouble winning the close games on the road, where many of those losses were decided within the final minute of play. The only times this season where the Aztecs lost to a team that was truly better than them were the losses to Syracuse and New Mexico.