Mountain West Basketball: San Diego State vs. Colorado State--Preview, Prediction, Odds

Mountain West Basketball: San Diego State vs. Colorado State--Preview, Prediction, Odds

Colorado State

Mountain West Basketball: San Diego State vs. Colorado State--Preview, Prediction, Odds


Mountain West Basketball: San Diego State vs. Colorado State–Preview, Prediction, Odds

Aztecs, Rams meet in Fort Collins & @MWCwire

What: San Diego State Aztecs (13-4, 4-1) @ Colorado State Rams (10-9, 2-4)
When: Wednesday, January 18th – 8:30 MT, 7:30 PT
Where: Moby Arena; Fort Collins, CO
How To Watch: FS1
Odds: San Diego State -5 Over/Under 143

There are ways to win games, and then there is what Colorado State did in Vegas on Saturday night. Well, we actually don’t know what the Rams players did in Vegas, because what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what they did inside the Thomas & Mack Center was pull a rabbit out of the hat and make the genie come out of the bottle all at the same time. Now, for an encore, they welcome an angry San Diego State team to Fort Collins for a standalone Wednesday night Mountain West Conference battle.

If you watched any basketball this past weekend you surely saw the highlights of Isaiah Stevens’ heroics against UNLV. The entire game was the type of hard-fought, back-and-forth affair fans of the MWC should expect for the next two months. To list all of his important plays down the stretch would require a separate article. But here is the crux of it. Stevens buried 4 three-pointers, 2 in the final 5 seconds of regulation, and 2 in the final 20 seconds of overtime, including a ridiculous half-court bomb at the buzzer that sent the game to OT. If Stevens misses any of those 4, the Rams lose. It was all part of a 33 point, 8 rebound, 9 assist night for the star guard. And oh by the way, he played 42 of 45 minutes as well.

Basketball is a team game of course, and other Rams made contributions. John Tonje and Jalen Lake made key winning plays, and Patrick Cartier scored the first 6 points of overtime to keep CSU afloat. But this was as close to a one-man band as you could get down the stretch. It was all needed to defeat the Rebels, who played well and had to feel snake-bitten by the end result. For the Rams, victory in that type of manner could be a springboard to a resurgence, as they now sit 2-4 in league play.

That potential resurgence will be put to the test right away, as the preseason pick to win the conference comes to town, hot on the heels of their first league loss. A few days after hammering Nevada in a showdown for first place, San Diego State was upset at home by New Mexico. It was an uncharacteristic performance by the Aztecs, who really were out executed on both ends of the floor. It was unusual to see someone carve up the Aztecs defense, though some of that was due to the sheer shot making of Jaelen House. On the other side, an offense that had been humming along in conference play was stymied, and shot poorly from the field.

While Matt Bradley grabs the headlines, and rightfully so, for SDSU to live up to the hype and claim a championship in this ultra competitive MWC, they are going to need more consistent efforts out of two key transfers that have shown glimpses of brilliance. Darrion Trammell was outstanding on multiple fronts the first month plus, but since the calendar has turned to 2023 he’s gone ice cold, shooting 4-16 and scoring a total of 14 points in 3 games. He also doesn’t seem to have the same energy and spark that he had earlier. That will need to change Wednesday night, as he goes head to head on the perimeter with Stevens. On the interior, Jaedon LeDee may need a bit more usage. He may not be blessed with a raft of post moves, but he attempted only two shots in 24 minutes against UNM. That followed 2 games against Wyoming and Nevada in which the 6’9” power forward scored a total of 17 points, on just 7 shots from the floor. In back-to-back games against BYU and Stanford in November, LeDee went for 37 points on 14-24 shooting. Anything close to that moving forward would significantly boost the Aztecs fortunes.

From a San Diego State perspective, this is probably a good opponent to face if you’re looking to get back on track offensively. While the conference is littered with high ranking defensive squads, Colorado State would not qualify as one, as their metrics are quite poor in most standard categories. Much of this is due to the injury bug that has bitten the Rams virtually all season long. 6 different expected contributors have missed games so far, and only Tonje has started all 19 games. There is little depth up front and it’s been a revolving door of players in and out of the lineup, making cohesiveness extremely difficult.

While CSU has been less than stellar guarding people, their offense has been quite efficient. Obviously having a point guard of Stevens caliber running the show makes it a lot easier. His numbers are worthy of All-American status – 19 points and 6 assists per game, shooting 40% from deep, 86% from the foul line, and sporting a 3-1 assist to turnover ratio. Not bad for someone who missed the first 7 games with a foot injury. While Tonje has cooled off a bit from his hot early season start, Cartier has really kicked it into gear. He seemingly never misses a shot, and the numbers bear that out, he makes 66% of his field goal attempts. He has great footwork in the post, soft hands, and a nice touch around the rim. The Rams could use a little more physicality and paint presence on the other end out of him, as he only grabs 2.5 boards per game and has just one block for the season. His offensive work though, has been stellar.

Cartier will face his toughest test to date when he is defended by Nathan Mensah on Wednesday night. Mensah will be extra motivated as well after being forced to sit the last eight minutes Saturday with 5 fouls. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year against one of the best fundamentally sound big men in the league will be a fascinating matchup.

Against almost any other opponent in the Mountain West, the euphoria from the win on Saturday might be enough to carry them to victory. It may be worth a few points in this one, but that probably won’t be enough. Though the Rams have gotten healthier over the last two weeks, they are still thin in the frontcourt. The Aztecs are one of, if not the deepest team in the league. They are also coming in salty after dropping a game on their home floor. These teams met three times a year ago, and though CSU did manage one win in 3 tries, their point totals were 49, 58, and 58. So while the rosters have changed a bit, Aztecs boss Brian Dutcher has a solid grasp on how to defend Niko Medved’s offense, or at the very least slow down Stevens. Now he can add a bulldog veteran guard like Trammell to guard him, and limit the post offense of Cartier. Add it all up, and it’s tough to see Colorado State approaching their season total of 75 points a night. The Rams may indeed get back on track, but they’ll likely have to wait a game to do it. It says here San Diego State is the one straightening the wheel Wednesday night.

Prediction: San Diego State 71 Colorado State 61



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