2023 NCAA Tournament First-Round Game Preview & Prediction: #12 Charleston vs. #5 SDSU
Will the dominant Aztecs end up in a Low Country boil, or will the Cinderella Cougars’ magic basketball turn back into a pumpkin?
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This first round Cougars vs. Aztecs pairing is going to be a definite must-see mid-major BATTLE ROYALE.
WHO: College of Charleston Cougars (31-3, 16-2 CAA) vs. San Diego State University Aztecs (27-6, 15-3 MW)
WHEN: Thursday, March 16th – 12:10 p.m. PST / 3:10 p.m. EST
WHERE: Amway Center- Orlando, FL (Capacity 20,000)
RADIO: San Diego Sports 760 / SiriusXM App ch. 968
SERIES RECORD: San Diego State and College of Charleston meet for the 2nd time on Thursday afternoon. The Aztecs hold a 1-0 series advantage.
LAST MEETING: The Aztecs and Cougars met once with SDSU winning, 72-52, in the opening game of the Wooden Legacy on Nov. 28, 2013 in Fullerton, California.
WEBSITES: GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website; CofCSports.com, the official Charleston athletics website.
ODDS: SDSU -5.5
Orlando, FL – The 12-seed Charleston Cougars (31-3) face the 5-seed San Diego State Aztecs (27-6) in a first round South Region game in the NCAA Tournament. Tip-off from Amway Center in Orlando is scheduled for approximately 3:10 p.m. EST (truTV).
The Cougars spent time in the Top 25 rankings at points during the regular season, and then went on to win the Colonial Athletic Association tournament. Charleston has pulled off 10 straight wins since February 2nd.
Many will argue that the Cougars have had a lackluster strength of schedule, and Charleston’s best win was against Kent State- their only win over a NCAA Tournament team.
In contrast, San Diego State registed a win over an NCAA Tournament team in their last game, the Mountain West title game, beating Utah State 62-57. The Aztecs currently have 5 wins over NCAA Tournament teams, while playing Arkansas tough in a heartbreaking OT loss.
Who will move on to the Round of 32? Let’s take a closer look.
Why The Cougars Will Win
The Cougars are a high-octane, high speed scoring machine.
The Aztecs, on the other hand, frequently inject drama into their games by stalling out after taking healthy leads. They are brilliant defensively and get out ahead, but then they give points back.
Charleston is an aggressive rebounder. That could make things hard on the Aztecs if Charleston cleans up the boards.
The Cougars, like the Aztecs are incredibly deep, they’ll light it up from the arc, and they’re built to take advantage of San Diego State’s lulls, by punishing them with ten-point runs.
Why The Aztecs Will Win
The Aztecs are seriously battle hardened, college basketball veterans.
In addition to completing an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule full of big wins, the Mountain West is a highly competitive basketball conference. The MWC is currently the fifth toughest conference behind BIG-12, B1G, SEC and ACC. The Pac-12 is sixth behind the Mountain West.
There are a lot of seniors on the Aztecs, some of them are in their fifth year- and at least one of them is in their sixth year thanks to Covid extension.
Charleston has solid wins against Colorado State and Virginia Tech, but it hasn’t faced anything like what San Diego State can do defensively.
In addition, the Aztecs might be one of a few teams with even greater depth than the Cougars.
Most importantly, the Aztecs host a roster of players who have lost back-to-back in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. They will be chomping at the bit for that win, and will be meticulous to avoid calamity yet again.
What Will Happen
For Charleston, rebounding, high-octane offense and three point shooting will be critical to defeat the Aztecs. All of these will prove extremely difficult for the Cougars, because San Diego State’s defense will stymie Charleston’s fast pace flow, rebounding and aggression.
Charleston will have to match SDSU’s intensity, and this will be a challenge because the Aztecs don’t really tire out. They keep rotating and because of it they have perpetually fresh legs, and their bench doesn’t just contribute, but some bench players like Jayden LeDee and Michah Parrish can step on the floor and end up leading in scoring.
The Aztecs will keep play a little too close for comfort at times after giving up a streak or two, but in the end they will prevail and register their first NCAA Tournament win since 2015.
Final Score: SDSU 75, Charleston 69
The winner of No. 5 San Diego State and No. 12 College of Charleston will square off in the second round with the winner of No. 4 Virginia (25-7) and No. 13 Furman (27-7) on Saturday, March 18.