Will San Diego State ever be a real threat to win the NCAA Tournament?
So far, they’ve proven that they’re good enough to get in with good seeding and win a few games, but that’s about it. That puts them in the same category as teams like Virginia Commonwealth, who often finds themselves in the Sweet 16 but can’t get further because of the talent disparity between their roster and those of Kansas, Duke, Louisville, and other major programs.
Despite continued regular-season success, and being a fixture in the top 25 in each of the last four seasons, it’s easy to find the flaws in Steve Fisher’s team. If you’re looking for star players with numbers to get them on the national radar, you’ll have to scan right past college basketball’s offensive leaders. Josh Davis and Skylar Spencer show up occasionally among defensive leaders, but that’s about it. SDSU wins games with their suffocating team defense, and that has been the case ever since Fisher showed up and turned this flailing program around.
There are two ways to view this team. A seasoned college basketball fan would tell you that Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse teams also win with team defense, and don’t have much in the way of offensive players. That program, which has only dropped from the top 25 once since 1976, is not a terrible model for the Aztecs. However, it’s worth pointing out that the only title Syracuse has won was during Carmelo Anthony’s one and only season with the Orange. It’s all but impossible to win a title on team defense alone.
Beau Lynott and other Aztecs fans are looking at the win-loss record, which now includes a dramatic win over New Mexico, and building up hope that this could be the year that SDSU puts it all together in the tournament. I’m a little more pessimistic. I’m looking at the offense and seeing a glass half-empty because I’ve seen this play out too many times. The team with the good team defense and good starting five gets into a game with an uber-talented “major program” with five-star recruits on its bench and gets run up and down the floor all game long until its not-so-great bench is giving up threes and transition points. That was even the recipe that Florida Gulf-Coast used to knock SDSU out of the tournament last year, and it didn’t even need the bench to do it.
I’m not saying the Aztecs can’t make it to the Elite 8, or Final 4. I’ll be watching along and rooting for them to win the whole thing. But I won’t believe that this Aztecs team will get any closer than previous Aztecs teams until they actually do it.
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High Hopes for the Padres in Spring Training
• In a rarity in baseball, the Padres are absolutely loaded at the catcher position. They have four guys who could conceivably start, but their fates rest on the recovery of Yasmani Grandal.
• Speaking of Grandal, he’s already catching and hitting in Cactus League games and is just working to build stamina at this point. In case you were wondering, his video-bombing skills remain in midseason form.
• At the end of last season, I wanted Bud Black fired and replaced with Brad Ausmus. Ausmus is now the manager of the Detroit Tigers, and fans have already started lining up in-house replacements for Buddy. Oh, boy.
• This is probably more the fault of John Moores and Jeffrey Moorad playing hot-potato with the ownership of the team than it is current ownership, but the Chase Headley situation isn’t likely to have a happy ending. Either the team is going to end up trading him, bringing back horrifying flashbacks of Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy, or they’re going to overpay him, bringing back horrifying flashbacks of Brian Giles.
Chargers Add Depth, Retain Leaders
Free agency has begun! Unfortunately, for those Chargers fans scouring Twitter looking for big news, there hasn’t been much. The team doesn’t have a lot in the way of cap space this season, and second-year GM Tom Telesco seems determined to build by adding stars through the draft, and depth and veteran leadership with free agents. After clearing a bit of cap space, here is who the team added this week:
• Donald Brown: An ex-Indianapolis Colt (just like Telesco) who should provide insurance against injuries this season, and take some of the load off of Ryan Mathews’ shoulders. More importantly is that he’s signed for three years, whereas Mathews and Danny Woodhead are free agents next offseason.
• Kavell Conner: Another ex-Colt thatwho will serve as a backup LB behind Donald Butler and Manti Te’o.
• Kellen Clemens: A career backup and former second-round pick, Clemens will compete for the backup QB spot left behind when Charlie Whitehurst signed a big-money deal to join the Tennessee Titans.
• Reggie Walker and Brandon Ghee: More depth! Walker played well as a backup ILB and OLB last season for San Diego, and is a special teams standout. Ghee was a highly touted prospect who could never stay healthy in Cincinnati but will compete to be the team’s third or fourth cornerback.
• Darrell Stuckey: A fan favorite who should probably go to a Pro Bowl as a special teamer, but showed himself to be a solid backup safety last season.
• Chad Rinehart: A starter for the Chargers offensive line last year, Rinehart had a hard time staying healthy. He obviously has a fan in offensive line coach Joe D’Alessandris, and his contract says he could be a very solid backup guard.
Stories You May Have Missed
• Lucha Libre at PETCO Park! This is not a drill!
• This week’s Sports Illustrated cover is pretty awesome, if you know the history behind it.
• Former Arizona Cardinals RB Rashard Mendenhall retired from the NFL at 26, but probably not for the reason you think.
• Photo of the Week: Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin paid homage to one of the greatest power forwards who ever played with this dunk on Monday night:
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