3 Keys to a SDSU victory over Michigan

Aztecs Matt Bradley
Credit: Sean M. Haffey/ Getty Images

1. Extra Work Day

San Diego State had firm control in their 72-47 blowout of Long Beach State on Tuesday night at Viejas Arena. They went three days between their loss against USC on Black Friday and will have another three full days before tipping off against Michigan.

“It’s good. I told our guys I’d like to give them the day off, but we’re not going to,” Brian Dutcher said in his Tuesday night post-game press conference. “Michigan plays [Wednesday], so we have an extra prep day, and we have to take advantage of that.”

Earlier this week, Dutcher knew Michigan would have their full attention on UNC after defeating Tarleton State a full week prior. The Wolverines were blown out by the Tar Heels. Now they have only two full days before hosting the Aztecs.

“I told them we won’t tax your legs; it might be more mental,” said Dutcher on the level of practice being conducted. “But we have to prep for Michigan [on Wednesday] because we have one more day to get ready than they have.”

On paper, the extra day of focus should benefit them. It’s one more day of increased preparation and the opportunity to work on the fundamentals, improving their game plan, and getting their legs rested.

2. Out rebound Caleb Houstan

The 6”8” guard/forward from Mississauga, Canada, was a consensus five-star recruit from scouting services and the highest-rated recruit since landing Glenn Robinson III in 2012. Houston has a good shot at being a lottery pick because of his athleticism as a perimeter player and his knack for chasing down rebounds.

Credit: USC Athletics

He nearly had a double-double against UNC, scoring eight points and collecting seven rebounds. His most productive game was against Tarleton State when he finished with 14 points and ten rebounds.

SDSU profiles similar to teams on Michigan’s schedule like Seton Hall, UNLV and Arizona. In games against those opponents, Houstan shot only 16% from the field.

Unless things drastically change by Saturday, Keshad Johnson is likely to man up against Houstan. The Aztec junior from Oakland matches up pound-for-pound and can defend against his length. Stopping the freshmen phenom means Johnson has to pursue him on the wings, and contest. However, going up a potential lottery pick for Johnson is a good test for his defense and Dutcher’s focus on grabbing rebounds.


3. Take advantage of Michigan after a loss

The 24th ranked Michigan Wolverines, ranked during the preseason at No. 6, has aspirations and the talent to attain a national championship. The question for Dutcher’s San Diego State team is guessing how Michigan responds after a loss.

Seton Hall handed UM a 67-65 upset home loss, but Howard gathered his team and beat UNLV 74-61 at the T-Mobile Arena. After losing to Arizona by 18 in Vegas, they beat Tarleton State at home by nine.

The Wolverines have not lost back-to-back games since losing to Wisconsin and Ohio State in 2020.

USC provided a blueprint for defeating the Aztecs. Watching the tape, Coach Juwan Howard knows that SDSU has yet to find an identity on the offensive end. On the film, Howard would also see that the Aztec defense held the Trojans to under 60 points. San Diego State is Michigan’s only top 10 defense scheduled for the non-conference portion.

Offensively the Wolverines have clear talent on the roster, but like the Aztecs, they are still finding a rhythm in playing together. Their loss to Seton Hall showed their early chemistry issues and their defensive inefficiencies, so facing a tough defense like Dutcher’s squad can further pressure the Ann Arbor-based team.

Will the Wolverines be able to execute their game plan after the letdown against UNC on a short turnaround and will they be able to bounce back as they have so far? The Aztecs are betting on their defense to send Juwan Howard and the Wolverines on a losing streak on Saturday.

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Erwin Mendoza
Erwin Mendoza grew up a SoCal kid, but now is raising a family in the Pacific Northwest. Besides covering San Diego State basketball, he loves lamenting the lack of sports championships from San Diego — minor league teams don’t count— while drinking the local stout on nitro.
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