San Diego State vs. UC San Diego: Preview, Who To Watch, Prediction
Aztecs take on the Tritons in a cross city matchup.
WHO: San Diego State Aztecs (7-3) Vs UC San Diego Tritons (6-4)
When: Wednesday, December 22nd 9:00 PM ET/ 6:00 PM PT
Where: San Diego, California
STREAM: Mountain West Network
San Diego State is set to face UC San Diego on Wednesday night. The UC San Diego Tritons are in only their second season at the D1 level. The Tritons are 6-4 this season, with their best win coming against Cal on the road, and their worst loss coming against Denver on the road. They won their last game against non-D1 Cal Tech by 41 points.
The Tritons leading scorer is Center Toni Rocak with 13.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Rocak came off the bench for the Tritons the last two games, but was a starter at the beginning of the season. What makes him dangerous is his propensity to draw contact. He leads the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes at 8.5. Led by Rocak, the Tritons tend to shoot more free throws than most other teams. The other player to watch is Freshman Francis Nwaokorie. He is averaging 12.2 points on a very efficient 67% True Shooting percentage.
The Aztecs are coming off a major confidence boosting win against St. Mary’s that should count as a quad 1 win on selection Sunday. They won by 10 points and shot 7-10 from behind the arc. Point Guard Trey Pulliam won the MVP award for the game, totaling 15 points and 6 assists against a top 10 defense in the country. Adam Seiko, filling in for the injured Lamont Butler, had twelve points on 4-4 shooting from deep.
Trey Pulliam will continue to carry a heavy load as Matt Bradley continues to get comfortable in the offense. Nathan Mensah will continue to be the defensive anchor, as his ability to guard any position helps the Aztecs wreak havoc on opponents offensive schemes.
The Aztecs are a 17 point favorite at home according to KenPom.
Keys for UC San Diego – UC San Diego needs to play to their strengths as much as possible. If they can draw fouls the way they have all season they may be able to send SDSU players to the bench early. Getting Nathan Mensah in foul trouble would do wonders for them, and is a reasonable goal as Mensah has a history of foul trouble.
The other key is to try and wear down Trey Pulliam over 40 minutes. The Aztecs don’t have any real ball handlers outside of Pulliam, and as such he’s played at least 36 minutes each of the last three games. When he gets worn down he makes mistakes and turns the ball over, and when he’s on the bench the Aztecs offense tends to be ineffective. Tiring him out will be important if the Tritons hope to leave with an upset.
Keys for San Diego State – The game plan for the Aztecs will start with defense every time. Play sound defense, do not commit fouls, force misses, and secure the rebound. If they do that they should be able to win this game with whatever offense they can scrap together. Securing rebounds has been a struggle for this team, but has been slowly improving. If they accomplish that the Tritons should not be able to score 60 points, and may not even hit 50. St. Mary’s has a much better offense and only scored 53 on the Aztecs.
Offensively the Aztecs need to find a way to finish close to the hoop. The Tritons are very aggressive in defending the 3-point line, denying shots and closing out hard on shooters. The Aztecs need to use that aggressive defense against the Tritons by swinging the ball and attacking closeouts to get easy shots at the rim.
Predictions – Despite the Aztecs struggles this season, they are still regarded as a top-50 team in the nation (48th in the Massey Ratings composite.) UC San Diego hasn’t played any team with comparable talent. The Tritons are really good, even elite, at a few things, but don’t have enough overall game to overcome the challenges the Aztecs create with their defense. It would take some ridiculously hot shooting for them to pull off a victory.
Prediction – 68-57 Aztecs