Tarke’s Takes after two-game trip to Colorado

Credit: CSU Athletics

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Credit: SDSU Athletics

This past week, the Aztecs took two different trips to Colorado to face Colorado State and Air Force. They battled altitude, snow, and illness, with Adam Seiko missing the game against the Falcons.

Against AFA, the team was noticeably struggling through some sort of fatigue because of the elements of the week. The games were not easy, but the Aztecs won both and moved to 6-1 in the conference and now sit in solo lead of the meeting.

Crunch Time Performing

There are two sides to look at regarding the crunch time performance from SDSU’s trip to Colorado.

This San Diego State team has struggled in the final minutes. Last season, they were eliminated from the NCAA tournament because of inexplicable miscues such as turnovers, missed free throws, and untimely mistakes. This reared its ugly head against Arkansas in the Maui Invitational when the Aztecs blew their two-possession lead with 17 seconds left. Then against Nevada, they had their 21-point lead shrunk down to single digits after a full-court press that wreaked havoc on the ball handlers.

Against the Rams, there were similar late-game blunders. With 1:40 to play, SDSU grew a six-point lead and almost put the game away with a defensive stop. But they continued to allow three-pointers to keep the Rams in the game.

They were much better getting through the full-court press, but they still struggled at the foul line. The team’s best free throw shooters, Darrion Trammell and Matt Bradley, both went 1-for-2 from the foul line. Bradley’s miss kept the lead at two points which gave Isaiah Stevens a chance to drive down the court and tie the game up with a layup. With five seconds left, Trammell air-balled a floater on a designed play out of a timeout. Off to overtime, they went with memories of the Razorbacks game showing up.

But the five-minute period was superb. The Aztecs scored on every possession and put up 17 points in the frame. Like the SDSU, there were 21 other teams whose last contest went to overtime. Only one score more points in the extra period.

They continued to hit big baskets and extend their lead over the Rams. Bradley and Lamont Butler were particularly effective on the offensive end. If there was any flaw, they missed two free throws in the period. Overall, they proved that they are capable of playing great basketball when the plays matter the most.

Credit: CSU Athletics

Against the Falcons, SDSU struggled to get the ball in the basket going through a seven-minute field goal drought in the second half. This resulted in Air Force creeping back into the game. With a minute to play, SDSU called a timeout, up only five, the players were confident walking back into the huddle. They were excited to be clutch. They proceeded to go 5-for-6 from the foul line, with the Falcons playing the intentional foul game. They finished the game shooting 22-for-23 from the charity stripe.

As games continue to get more important, these are great experiences for the team. They will need to continue to grow from these performances and claim their learning lessons in wins compared to losses.

Road Warriors

San Diego State remains undefeated on the road, at 5-0. Three of their losses were at neutral sites.

The 30-2 SDSU team in 2020 had a phrase, ‘The Lock up Tour.’ This was a phrase for their elite defense that traveled on the road. Every stop on the tour was in an opponent’s gym. The team took pride in traveling to enemy territory and winning in front of heckling fans.

In the press conference last week, Adam Seiko mentioned that for Mountain West teams and fans, the Aztecs are the biggest game on their schedule. This means that SDSU never gets a night off with opponents giving everything they have and possibly adding new wrinkles to knock off the studs of the conference.

Winning in an enemy gym is more impressive in this conference. There are multiple sites with altitude that is clearly felt. Weather challenges, such as the Colorado snowstorm, affected the team’s ability to arrive and depart from Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Additionally, with teams focusing more on the Aztecs, the arenas usually have fan promotions to encourage more fans to attend. It was a ‘white-out’ at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, and the stadium was noticeably energetic.

Credit: CSU Athletics

From a metrics point of view, road wins are great wins. Quadrant one victories are counted against teams who are in the top 75 in the NET. This is opposed to home games, where opponents must be in the top 30 to qualify. With five Mountain West schools in the top 75 in the NET, the Aztecs will have the chance to bolster their resume. They have at least four more road opportunities to claim a quadrant one victory and possibly three at home.

Atop the Mountain

After the win against the Falcons, SDSU is in sole possession of first place of the Mountain West at 6-1 in league play. With Boise State losing in overtime to New Mexico, they fell into second place, tied with four other two-loss teams in the conference.

Last season, Boise State ran away with the conference after winning their first eight games in league play. With their hot start, teams could not catch up from behind. This year with a loaded conference, no team appears capable of running away with the title.

The Aztec players take pride in playing one game at a time and focusing on the present. The next two weeks will impact SDSU’s chances of keeping the conference lead and potentially hanging a new banner by the end of the season. In the next five games, they play four matchups against a team that is currently in second place in the conference. They face Utah State twice, Nevada, and Boise State.

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With the loaded conference, seeding will be valuable for the conference tournament. The top five seeds do not have to play the opening day of the tournament, seeds six through 11 play the grueling stretch of four games in four days to win the conference tournament. With the top five teams in the conference separating themselves, each teams regular-season matchups will determine final standings and possible tiebreakers.

The two games in Colorado also wrap up the first back-back road game stretch for the Aztecs. The next time this occurs, the road games could decide the conference winner. On February 25th, SDSU travels to New Mexico, where the Aztecs will be looking for revenge. Three days later, they travel to Boise State, a place the Aztecs have not won at since 2020.

2 thoughts on “Tarke’s Takes after two-game trip to Colorado

  1. This article puts to words what I feel is the most compelling argument for the aztecs to move to the Pac-12 and take a giant step in becoming a program that can attract and sign 4-5 star recruits.

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