SDSU Aztecs vs Boise State Broncos Game Preview

SDSU huddles against Nevada. (Deanna Goldberg/EVT)

Reese Waters races to the basket. (Deanna Goldberg/EVT)

The San Diego State Aztecs travel to Boise, Idaho, on short rest to face the Boise State Broncos.

The Aztecs are coming off a victory Wednesday night against the Nevada Wolf Pack. A win in Boise would be a key road victory that will be needed to claim a conference championship. 

Boise State lost their last game at home to UNLV. They will be locked in and looking to get back on track. Already having lost a game at home makes every other home game a must-win if they want to compete for a conference title. 

General Observations

The metrics for the Broncos do not look very different from those of the Aztecs two seasons ago. Their defense is top-20, but their offense is outside the top-100. Their roster is built like the Nevada Wolf Pack teams under coach Eric Musselman. 

Nearly every player is between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-8, and their bench is thin. They’ve played the hardest schedule in the Mountain West so far, and despite struggling early, they have hit their stride and are playing well. 

Defending Boise State

There are a few encouraging aspects about guarding Boise State. The first is, outside of Chibuzo Agbo, they have not been shooting the ball well this season. San Diego State tends to force a lot of missed three-point shots, to begin with, so hopefully, that compounds the effect. 

The Aztecs can pack the paint with their pack line defense in an attempt to prevent easy passes without having to worry as much about getting burned from the outside. The Broncos can occasionally be turnover-prone, as evidenced by their 18 turnovers against Nevada last Friday.

One thing Nevada had some success with is switching ball screens. The Broncos had multiple possessions where they struggled to get good looks due to the switching defense.

The Aztecs have been switching more lately, and having success with it. LeDee seems like a target to hunt in switches, but he’s held up really well so far.

Another tactic that has disrupted the Broncos is press defense on the inbound pass. Against Nevada the Broncos had multiple possessions where they either had to burn a timeout or committed a turnover. If the Aztecs’ depth can handle competing at elevation, they should seriously consider mixing in some press defense. Between seven and twelve possessions of it should be enough to cause some disruptions and force a few turnovers. If it is working well, they can continue to do it as long as they do not tire themselves out.

Attacking Boise State

BSU has a wide range of defensive coverages in their bag. Much of what they do has been brought up in game previews before, so nothing will be completely new, but the Broncos have more coverages at their disposal than any previous team the Aztecs have faced. They can switch on defense because their players are similar sizes, so there is rarely a mismatch. In the clip below, they defend Chicago action similarly to Nevada. 

In side pick and roll,s they can execute an Ice defense, where they deny the screen and force the ball handler towards the baseline and a waiting big man.

Identifying the coverages from play to play and then making the right decisions will be imperative for the Aztec ball handlers.

Against Colorado State, the Broncos aggressive post-defense resulted in giving up a number of baskets off of high-low type of actions. If the Aztecs can move the ball quickly enough, they can replicate that and help LeDee get some easy points.

The Broncos like to double-team off of cutters. The Aztecs don’t always send cutters through the paint on their post-ups, but when they do expect the double to come. LeDee will need to decide whether to attack before the double comes or find an open player to kick out to.

Play to watch for

Split Cut

A split cut involves two players running toward each other, with both looking like they are about to set a screen. Then one player flares out to the perimeter, and one cuts towards the basket. The hope is the defense miscommunicates, and at least one player is open. Split cuts are employed by the Broncos often, but not solely, during post-apps. A player like Omar Stanley will post up on the low block, and then other Bronco players will perform the split cut to occupy defenders and try to create an easy shot.

Players to watch

Tyson Degenhart, #2, 16 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists

Degenhart has been one of the best players in the conference since his freshman year. His 6-foot-7, 232 lbs frame lets him play either forward position or even the center spot in stretches. He can score from almost anywhere on the floor if left alone and is a great defender as well. The heart and soul of the team, Degenhart is the MVP in most games, regardless of points scored or rebounds collected.

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O’Mar Stanley, #1, 12.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists

Stanley started off slower but has been a top-10 player over the course of the season. His best game of the season was a 30-point, 11-rebound performance on the road against San Jose State. He ranks above the 90th percentile in scoring efficiency on post-ups (95th), cuts (91st), and putbacks (93rd). He lacks three-point range but has great versatility to attack on the block or from the perimeter off the dribble. His emergence has been key to Boise State’s resurgence this season. Finding a way to slow him down will be crucial.

Chibuzo Agbo, #11, 14.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists

Transferring from Texas Tech to Boise St. two years ago was a great decision for Agbo. At Texas Tech, he was an end-of-rotation guy. In the first year at Boise, he was a good player. In his second season, he is looking like a pro prospect. He is the lone consistent outside threat for the Broncos this season, shooting 46% on the season. His offensive versatility helps him get to and finish plays from anywhere on the floor. Agbo can rebound well from the wing. There are few weaknesses in his game. It will likely be Parrish’s responsibility to guard Agbo, and it will be a tall task.

X-Factor

Foul trouble. The Broncos are a thin team, ranking 287th in bench minutes. If players like LeDee or others can get into the paint and draw fouls, the Broncos may not be able to withstand it. Similarly, calls can often favor the home team. If San Diego State gets a few key players in foul trouble, it will throw off the game plan in terms of depth and pressing on defense.

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