What have the Aztecs struggled with so far this season?
San Diego State is off to its best start since the magical 2010-2011 season. They are 10-0, ranked in the top 25, and look much improved over the last couple of years’ teams. At the time of writing, only nine undefeated teams remain, and San Diego State is one of them.
With all that being said, every team has a weakness. Even the best teams have some sort of flaw that could lead to them losing when the games matter most. Looking at the data, and combining that with what we’ve seen in games, we can look at a few things.
For our first potential weakness, we look to the four factors. The four factors are effective Field Goal Percentage, Turnover Percentage, Offensive Rebounding Percentage, and ratio of free-throw attempts to field goal attempts. Some analysts have suggested that these four factors are the most important factors toward winning basketball games. The Aztecs grade out well in three of the four of them, on both sides of the ball.
The factor they are below average on is ratio of free-throw attempts to field goal attempts. They are below average on both sides of the ball in this factor. What this means is that they don’t draw many fouls, and they foul their opponents too much.
This results in the Aztecs not getting those easy points at the line, and giving their opponents easy points at the line. So far, this hasn’t been a detrimental flaw. The Aztecs are 10-0 after all. I personally don’t think this flaw is as big as websites like KenPom.com or battorvik.com would suggest. When this team is locked in on defense they can go long stretches without committing a foul. It will be something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
The real weakness looks to be this teams inability to score against teams with size. This was seen in the most recent game against San Jose State. The Spartans have the 10th best average height in Div.1 basketball, according to KenPom.com. The Aztecs needed a last second three by Malachi Flynn to score 59 points and win by two. One game does not make a trend, however. To test the theory for the whole season I ran a Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient. Basically, it tells you how related two sets of data are.
The two sets I tested were the offensive efficiency of San Diego State, and the average height provided by KenPom.com. With this formula, anything over a 50% correlation is considered significant. The result came back at 47%. It is possible I am overreacting to a single game. It is also possible that with a greater sample size, the relation will grow stronger.
Why does any of this matter? Let’s look at the Aztecs upcoming opponents. Utah ranks 29th in average height, Utah St. ranks 24th, Boise St. ranks 46th, and New Mexico ranks 39th. San Diego State’s biggest contenders for the conference title (with the exception of Nevada) are all tall and long teams. If those teams are able to capitalize on this potential weakness, then Aztec fans may be in for a long conference season.
As an Aztec fan, I wouldn’t say I’m worried, yet, but it is something I’ll keep my eye on. Any non-Aztec fans who are reading are hopefully encouraged by this potential weakness they can exploit.