The Morning Report
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No. 4 seed San Diego State Aztecs were very nearly upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by No. 13 seed New Mexico State Thursday night, in a battle of two very-flawed teams coached by men who know each other very well. Here they are embracing Thursday night:
Marvin Menzies, who has taken his team to the tournament in four of the last five years, prepped his team so well it all came down to a three-pointer from Kevin Aronis that sent the game into overtime. But from then on, SDSU won with superior depth.
Here’s what I wrote last week:
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.
Let’s be real. The Aztecs are lucky they were facing a No. 13 seed, and they’re up against No 12 seed North Dakota State on Saturday. But they’re not likely to win this year’s NCAA Tournament for the same reason they couldn’t win the Mountain West Championship: offense. As usual, their offense went cold in the second half last night and it resulted in a 22-10 run for the Aggies that probably should have cost the Aztecs the game.
If you’re looking for optimism, I’ve got some of that as well. For SDSU to go on a bracket-busting run to the Elite 8 (or further), they’re going to need a third offensive option behind Xavier Thames and Winston Shepard.
In the Mountain West Conference tournament, junior forward Dwayne Polee II was that third option. On this night, with Shepard scoring just seven points on 27 percent shooting, the team desperately needed him. Polee sliced and diced his way through the New Mexico State defense and wound up with 15 points (and six rebounds) on 50 percent shooting, and he played for 29 minutes (more than the 27 minutes Shepard was on the court). That’s double his season average for points, rebounds and minutes and shows that head coach Steve Fisher understand that he’ll need to ride the “hot hand” to victory in lieu of a consistent offense. Polee also picked up a crucial block, and showed an affinity for the national stage along the way. Could he be the key to a deep run?
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Have the Padres Pulled the Wool Over Our Eyes?
Somewhere along the line, the Padres seem to have built a business plan around Broadway’s “The Producers.”
It made better business sense to spend less, and build up the “team” brand rather than market a face of the franchise. Teams like the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates have been criticized for years for taking advantage of the system to make a profit with a bad baseball team, and the Padres probably deserve to be in that group.
Former team owner John Moores and former team “owner” Jeffrey Moorad certainly made money in the last few years, and the team itself hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2006 (and they haven’t been in the top 10 in NL attendance since 2007). In fact, the team has made the playoffs only twice in the last 15 years and hasn’t won a playoff series since 1998 with exactly the type of big-name, big-money players the team avoids these days (Ken Caminiti, Tony Gwynn, Kevin Brown, Trevor Hoffman, etc.).
For their part, the Pirates have changed their narrative in the last few years, signing their homegrown stars and bringing in free agents to help (and doubling their payroll along the way). Last season, it resulted in a playoff win over the Cincinnati Reds. If the Padres are looking for an example on how to graduate to playoff contender, they only need to look to western Pennsylvania.
How could the Padres follow that blueprint? Signing home-grown “stars” such as Chase Headley, Andrew Cashner, Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera is a great start, and having long-term veterans in the clubhouse (instead of mercenaries on the final stop of their career) can help to breed a winning atmosphere. Failure to do so will likely leave the team stuck in neutral, making loads of money but playing in front of an empty stadium for years to come.
Could the Chargers Trade for DeSean Jackson?
• Depending on who you ask, and when you’re asking, the Philadelphia Eagles could be looking to ship out speedy wide reciever DeSean Jackson. The Chargers have been looking to add a receiver this offseason to put opposite Keenan Allen, and could use someone who can stretch the field deep. Could San Diego even do a trade with the Eagles? Could they afford Jackson? Yes and yes, but it would take a little creativity. The better question: Where the Chargers would put their Super Bowl trophy if the deal was made?
• Not sure about whether you should be excited about the Chargers signing former Colts running back Donald Brown? Jason Peters studied the game film to let you know exactly the type of player San Diego is getting.
• Since San Diego’s biggest need (for over a year now) has been a No. 1 cornerback, it’s no surprise that over half of the mock drafts have the team using their first round pick on that position.
Stories You May Have Missed
• There’s no selection show for the CIT basketball tournament? That’s no problem for the USD Toreros, who made their own.
• Don’t ever forget how lucky we are to live in San Diego. No, not because of the beaches or the nice weather, but because it means we regularly get to listen to Ted Leitner. His on-air scolding of the security at the Mountain West Conference tournament was fantastic and fitting. Uncle Teddy is the best.
• As I have been predicting for years, teams and leagues are keeping news in-house (and killing newspapers in the process) because it allows them to spin it however they choose.
• GIF of the Week: Sometimes, certain GIFs make me want to pay more attention to soccer. This is one of those. Holy crap.
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