Questions for the SDSU men’s basketball team as season begins

Credit: SDSU Men's Basketball

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What time is tipoff?

ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura is reporting games in California must end by 10:00 pm to comply with the State’s curfew order. Already USC has moved its kickoff against Washington State up to 6 pm. SDSU’s game with UC Irvine on Friday is scheduled to tipoff at 4 pm, but their game against UCLA Wednesday is scheduled for 7:30 pm.

College Basketball games typically last about two hours, so there is not much room for delays. Television networks are notorious for starting basketball games minutes late to accommodate the previous game’s conclusion. Add in a few replay reviews, and the end of the game will be pushing the 10:00 pm curfew. What happens if the game needs to go to overtime?

How does SDSU matchup against the size of UCLA and UC Irvine?

UCLA’s coach Mike Cronin credited developing his two centers, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill, with the team’s improved play in the second half of the season. The Bruins will have at least one big on the court at all times. UC Irvine, meanwhile, boats a starting unit of 6’ 11” center Brad Greene and the Big West preseason player of the year in 6’ 9” forward, Collin Welp. Speaking about his twin towers, Anteater coach, Russel Turner, said, “The combination of Brad and Collin is as good and talented as any combination we have had in this program.” Behind these players, the Bruins and Anteaters have plenty of size in case foul trouble limits their front line players.

SDSU has only two players on scholarship taller than 6’ 7”. Both come into the season with significant questions. Coach Dutcher said forward Nathan Mensah would enter the season without any restrictions on his minutes; however, Mensah has not played a game in nearly a year. It is a fair question to wonder how the layoff will impact his effectiveness on the court. Will his exuberance on finally being back on the court lead to early foul trouble? While no one doubts Mensah’s work ethic, game shape it, not practice shape. How many minutes will his conditioning allow him to play? Playing two games in less than 48 hours will be taxing on every player. How much more one who is recovering from a blood clot in his lung?

SDSU’s other big, graduate transfer Joshua Tomaic, has another question to answer. Is he a good player at the collegiate level? Tomaic simply has not played many minutes in his career. His athleticism is undeniable, but this has not amounted to much playing time. Maryland, where he began his career, had NBA players ahead of him his entire time there, so it is possible Tomaic got lost in a numbers game. On the other hand, Tomaic may not have been playing because he did not earn the minutes. Baptism by fire is what awaits Tomaic this week.

SDSU Aztecs

How will the rotation start?

Last season, Malachi Flynn and KJ Feagin averaged more than 30 minutes a game. Matt Mitchell, Yanni Wetzell, and Jordan Schakel averaged over 20 a game. Nathan Mensah, Trey Pulliam, and Adam Seiko averages were in the teens. No one else averaged double digits. Those numbers reflect how Coach Dutcher substitutes in a game. At the beginning of the year, he plays nine or 10, but as the season progresses, that number dwindles to 7 or 8. Already Coach Dutcher has indicated 12 on the roster deserve to play, but only 10 will. Who those 10 are will set in motion the domino effect that will impact the roster going forward.

One reason, for example, the Aztecs are without depth in the frontcourt is because Joel Mensah transferred out of the program this past offseason. Mensah was the tenth person in the rotation last season and saw his playing time lessen as the year progressed. If you want to gauge who the next possible transfers from the program will be, look at the eighth, ninth, and tenth players entering the games this week.

Will the stars shine?

Even before Malachi Flynn’s name was called during the NBA draft, experts were prognosticating the 2021 NBA draft. A quick google search will net one common name among these predictions: UCLA guard Chris Smith. The only surefire player in this event popping up on every Mock Draft, Smith is joined occasionally by two others, SDSU’s Jordan Schakel and Matt Mitchell. Other stars in the tournament, Pepperdine’s Colby Ross and the aforementioned Collin Welp should view this event as a way to garner further attention from NBA scouts. Smith is the unquestioned star of the event, and players lower on the pecking order play against him will be evidence of their prospect in the pros.

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