#12 San Diego St: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #12
Conference Rank: #1 Mountain West Conference
2009-10: 25-9, 11-5
2009-10 postseason: NCAA
Coach: Steve Fisher (198-149 at San Diego State, 382-231 overall)
San Diego State spent much of last season overshadowed by fellow Mountain West teams BYU and New Mexico, but the Aztecs had another great season and made it back to the NCAA Tournament. In fact, four MWC teams went dancing and that should be the case again this season. However, this season belongs to SDSU and they are now the team to beat.
Key Losses: G Kelvin Davis, G Tyrone Shelley
The backcourt lost some depth with the graduation of Kelvin Davis and the transfer of Tyrone Shelley. However, there is little reason to worry. James Rahon is eligible after transferring from Santa Clara. Two years ago the 6-5 guard averaged 11.3 points per game and shot 40.7 percent from long range for the Broncs. Rahon can handle a lot of the minutes at the one and two guard spots, but incoming freshmen Jamaal Franklin and LaBradford Franklin will help out. Jamaal is a 6-5 wing who can attack the basket and LaBradford can handle the ball and does his best work running up and down the floor.
The three newcomers will battle it out for playing time behind point guard D.J. Gay and shooting guard Chase Tapley. Gay has done a superb job running the show and is heading into his senior season with 83 career starts under his belt. This is not a team that does a great job keeping the turnovers down, but Gay is not to blame for that. Gay is also this team’s most productive and efficient three-point shooter. When all is said and done, Tapley may have something to say about that. Tapley was the unsung player on this team and had to fight his way into the starting lineup as a freshman. With a year of experience, bigger things are expected from the 6-2 guard and he could turn into yet another double digit scorer for San Diego State.
It was a trio of forwards who led the Aztecs in scoring last season and may do so again. The big guys under the basket are Billy White and Malcolm Thomas. White is an extremely efficient scorer around the basket and that even includes when he stretches out the defense with his mid-range jumper. White is coming off of a year in which he averaged 11.1 points and 4.2 rebounds and he should only be better as a senior. Thomas is the better rebounder and shot blocker, but he is by no means an ineffective scorer. Thomas tallied 10.9 points per game during his junior campaign and is even a great passer for a big man. The starters in the frontcourt are great, but it does not end there. Brian Carlwell is a quality backup center and Mehdi Cheriet is back after redshirting last season. Tim Shelton, if he can stay healthy, and sophomore Alec Williams can spend some time at the three or four spots too. That is an impressive mix of talent and potential to come in off the bench.
Who to Watch:
The one guy SDSU does not want to spend much time on the bench is Kawhi Leonard. The 6-7 forward had an amazing freshman campaign and is the best player on what could turn out to be the best team on the West Coast. As a freshman Leonard led the team with 12.7 points and 9.9 rebounds. He even dished out 1.9 assists per game and nabbed 1.4 steals. The only flaw in Leonard’s game was his inability to consistently knock down the long ball. At 6-7, he can usually shoot over most opponents, but he needs to do better than 20.5 percent from long range…or take fewer outside shots.
With the starting five returning intact, there is no reason to think the Aztecs will not be the conference favorites. This is a great MWC that should again get at least four teams into the NCAA Tournament. San Diego State will be among them and they should be the most dangerous of the bunch. Coach Steve Fisher has not won an NCAA Tournament game since the heyday of Michigan basketball, but that streak will likely end.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
D.J. Gay, Senior, Guard, 10.5 ppg
Chase Tapley, Sophomore, Guard, 7.6 ppg
Kawhi Leonard, Sophomore, Forward, 12.7 ppg
Billy White, Senior, Forward, 11.1 ppg
Malcolm Thomas, Senior, Forward, 10.9 ppg
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