2023 NCAA Tournament Round of 32 Game Preview & Prediction: No. 13 Furman vs. No. 5 SDSU
SDSU overpowered South Carolina’s Low Country. They prepare to take on the Upstate this Saturday in Orlando, Florida.
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The Paladins upset #4 Virginia. Can they register back-to-back upsets with #5 SDSU on Saturday… or not?
WHO: Furman Paladins (28-7, 15-3 Southern) vs. San Diego State University Aztecs (28-6, 15-3 MW)
WHEN: Saturday, March 18th – 9:10 a.m. PST | 12:10 p.m. EST
WHERE: Amway Center- Orlando, FL (Capacity 20,000)
RADIO: San Diego Sports 760 / SiriusXM App ch. 968
SERIES RECORD: SDSU and Furman meet for the 1st time on Saturday.
WEBSITES: GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website; FurmanPaladins.com, the official Furman athletics website.
ODDS: SDSU -6
Orlando, FL – The No. 13 Furman Paladins (28-7) face the No. 5 San Diego State Aztecs (28-6) in a first round South Region game in the NCAA Tournament. Tip-off from Amway Center in Orlando is scheduled for approximately 12:10 p.m. EST (CBS).
The 2023 NCAA Tournament’s first upset went down when the Paladins shocked the No. 4 Virginia Cavaliers on a last-second basket. Furman was the first double digit seed to advance to the second round.
Meanwhile, No. 5 San Diego State held off No. 12 Charleston 63-57 to advance to the second round, despite a stellar performance by Dalton Bolon and the Cougars. The second-round match is set for Saturday.
Furman has never played San Diego State before, but has extensive history against Charleston. The two schools used to play in the same conference when the Cougars were part of the Southern Conference with the Paladins. In 37 matches, Charleston has dominated the series. Furman is 6-31 all-time against the Cougars, but it’s notable that the Paladins won the last two games these schools played- in December of 2021 and in December of 2020.
Who will move on to the Sweet 16? Let’s take a closer look.
Why The Paladins Will Win
Furman had one of the most electric matches on Thursday with their Virginia upset. After hanging in all game long, Furman went on a late run to pull within two points, but Virginia had the ball with under 10 seconds to play.
Virginia inbounded the ball, and Furman trapped them instantly in the corner, which caused senior point guard Kihei Clark to panic and throw the ball up to mid-court. Furman forward Garrett Hiem intercepted the ball and found JP Pegues open for a step-in three-pointer and a one-point lead. Virginia had a chance, but their three-point shot fell short. It was a great win for Furman.
Against the Aztecs, Jalen Slawson will likely register another big game after producing 19 points and 10 rebounds against Virginia. The senior forward averaged 15.8 points per game and 7.2 rebounds, so he will likely give the Aztecs a big challenge.
If Furman is able to get rebounds and penetrate the paint, they could register back-to-back upsets and move on to the Sweet 16.
Why The Aztecs Will Win
Furman played great basketball in the Round of 64, but it’s very important to note that Virginia also choked in the second half. Good Paladin play was complemented by poor Cavalier second half play.
San Diego State knows how to get into a jam but it also has a consistent habit of righting the ship. Because of that, the Aztecs won’t be prone to the choke factor- not against Furman in the Round of 32.
The win over Charleston was hard fought and the Aztecs won on the back of senior guard Matt Bradley who scored 17 points and grabbed seven boards. Bradley is a point manufacturing machine.
Three factors gave the Aztecs an edge: physical ability, rebounding, and perpetual fresh legs. The Cougars couldn’t come up with anything on the inside as the length and power of the Aztecs took control. These are the same factors that the Paladins will face, and no matter how much preparation Furman is able to muster- it won’t stop the Aztecs’ physicality.
San Diego State is very big, very experienced, and it always comes up with long stretches during games when it looks like it has seven defensive players on the floor. If San Diego State applies their patented elite defense against Furman’s precise and dominant offense, the Aztecs will reduce the Paladins’ point production. And, the Aztecs have a true size advantage.
What Will Happen
Furman is 20-1 when making 46% or more of its shots, and it’s 8-6 when it doesn’t. San Diego State allowed teams to hit 46% or more of their shots just eight times, and they may have difficulty reaching that figure on Saturday.
This is an intriguing matchup in the second round just because these two teams are night-and-day different. We expect Furman to keep this game close all the way down to the wire, and an upset is indeed possible.
The Aztecs will keep play a little too close for comfort, but whenever the Paladins get hot SDSU will cool them off, and keep control. It will be an exciting battle, but in the end the Aztecs will overpower the Paladins.
Final Score: SDSU 64, Furman 60
The winner of No. 5 San Diego State and No. 13 Furman will square off in the Sweet 16 with the winner of No. 1 Alabama (30-5) and No. 8 Maryland (22-12) at a date to be determined- most likely Thursday, March 23rd at a time to be determined.