San Diego State vs. Michigan: Preview, Who To Watch, Prediction
Aztecs take on a tough Wolverines team on the road
Aztecs hope to pull off upset on the road.
WHO: San Diego STate Aztecs (5-2) Vs Michigan Wolverines (4-3)
When: Saturday, December 4th 1:00 PM ET/ 10:00 AM PT
Where: Ann Arbor, Michigan
San Diego State is about to play the University of Michigan in a game filled with history. Not History in terms of past matchups or rivalry status, but in terms of connections.
Current Aztecs Coach Brian Dutcher was an assistant at Michigan under former Aztecs coach Steve Fisher. Together they won a national title and played in two others. They also recruited what is widely regarded as the best freshman class in history, the Fab Five. Among the players in the Fab Five was current Michigan coach Juwan Howard. The two head coaches go way back and in a lot of ways see each other as family.
However, both coaches will be putting those feelings aside for a few hours when they play on Saturday.
The Aztecs are 5-2, with their only losses coming against top-30 KenPom teams BYU and USC. The Wolverines are 4-3 with losses against Seton Hall, Arizona, and North Carolina.
Both teams are built on defense and have struggled to some extent on offense. The Aztecs rank 6th defensively in KenPom, the Wolverines 16th. Both teams are shooting worse than 30% from behind the arc.
The Wolverines are led by second team All-American Hunter Dickinson, who coach Dutcher regarded early this week as one of the best posts in the country, “right up there with Drew Timme.” The 7’1” big man is averaging thirteen points and seven rebounds per game.
The Aztecs, on the other hand, haven’t quite found their offensive leader yet. Lamont Butler was making the case for it, but he fractured his wrist during a dunk in the game against Long Beach State, and will miss some time. Matt Bradley, the transfer from Cal and second team Pac-12 player, is still trying to find his rhythm. It may be hard to do that against a stout Michigan defense.
Keys for Michigan:
For the Wolverines to win they’ll need to do one of two things. The first is make 3-point shots. They’ve mostly struggled to do that all season, and the Aztecs have excelled at defending the arc. If they can do that it will open up the inside for Dickinson to go to work. The other is get offensive rebounds. The Aztecs have struggled to end possessions this season. If MIchigan’s big, athletic players can get second chance points they can put the Aztecs away.
Keys for the Aztecs:
The first goal will be to slow down Hunter Dickinson. The Aztecs may be uniquely equipped to do that since they have Nathan Mensah, who Rob Dauster regarded this year as “one of the top-5 defensive center’s in the country.”
After that they’ll need to secure their defensive rebounds when they force misses. They can’t afford to let Michigan get shot after shot until one falls.
Lastly, they’ll need someone to step up on offense. Lamont Butler has been the best offensive player in a lot of ways this season, and the Aztecs will sorely miss him. Players like Matt Bradley, Keith Dinwiddie, and Adam Seiko (who is coming off of a quad injury) will need to step up and take over some of the ball handling and shot making responsibilities.
This may be a game where the first team to score 50 points wins. The Aztecs may be uniquely situated to take advantage of Michigan’s floundering offense. That being said, the Aztecs offense has been even worse. The thing that gives Michigan the edge is their size, starting three players who are 6’8” or taller. The Aztecs lost to USC largely due to the size deficit. Between the size and the loss of Lamont Butler, scraping a win on the road against a tough Michigan team may be too much to ask. The defense will keep the Aztecs in the game, but without the ability to score points consistently every mistake gets magnified.
Michigan wins 62-56.