What can the Aztecs improve upon before March?
This Aztecs have accomplished things no other SDSU team has ever done. They currently have a 22-game winning streak and are off to the best start in program and conference history. The unit has achieved a higher KenPom rating than any other Aztec team, and have tied the highest AP Poll ranking of any Aztec team. It’s a great year to be an Aztec fan. If any SDSU Aztecs team has Final Four potential, it’s this team.
With all that being said, every team has things they can improve upon, and this team is no different. Coach Brian Dutcher always said he wants his teams to be better in March than they are in November and has shown a knack for accomplishing that. What are the things this team needs to improve on, and how can they be achieved?
Before giving my thoughts, I asked our basketball staff here at the East Village Times for their opinions. I asked five questions in total. Here are their answers:
What were your expectations of this team before the season started?
Tony Fantano: I expected that they would surprise a lot of people. I remember when Flynn beat SDSU when he was with Washington State in the Maui Invitational. He was an ice-cold killer around the hoop and took the overwhelmed Aztecs D to school. And he was the only freshman. I remember seeing him at the games last year redshirting on the bench patiently waiting his turn to take over Viejas Arena, which he did this year. Feagin and Wetzell were a total surprise to me, and they are truly a big part of the team’s success this year.
Dominic Stearn: My expectations for the team weren’t very high. I expected them to be at the top of the MW, as that has become usual. But that was it. Once they went on the road and beat BYU, I gained some hope in the team. After the Vegas Invitational, I realized the potential of this team, and that they could do something in March.
Michael Maciejewski: I expected this team to get an NCAA berth via an automatic bid. That was the goal for me for this team moving forward.
What are you’re expectations now?
Tony Fantano: I am nervous about their future now. They have upset written all over them. When I watch Baylor, they look like they could match up with SDSU pretty good. The power conferences have such an advantage over the weak competition SDSU plays. Plus, there is now legit respect from the USA sporting media for the Mountain West, and all the players know that from the Aztecs to the cowpokes. I expect SDSU to at least get to the Sweet 16. My heart says the Aztecs will stay undefeated and win the national championship.
Dominic Stearn: I now expect the Aztecs to make the second weekend of March Madness.
Michael Maciejewski: Now, I expect them to get to the Sweet Sixteen or better.
In your opinion, what is this team’s greatest strength?
Tony Fantano: The Aztecs’ greatest strength is a relentless defense when nothing else is working for them. If their shots are not falling, the Aztecs rely on a morale boost. They just play their patented, hard-nosed defense. They make a stop and create some momentum. By doing this, they weather the opposing defense down until gathering an easy look. The defense is the Aztecs’ bread and butter.
Dominic Stearn: The defense on this team is absolutely incredible. The strength.
Michael Maciejewski: For me, the greatest strength of the team is their ability to share the ball and make the extra pass. They never settle for shots or try to go one on one too much. Their unselfishness is something to behold.
In your opinion, what is this team’s greatest weakness?
Tony Fantano: Their greatest weakness is rebounding, and they definitely miss Nathan Mensah a lot. When they get to the tournament, they will face much more confident and stout centers. Wetzell and hopefully, Mensah will take accountability under the hoop, own the paint and play more like Shaquille O’Neil. Matt Mitchell gets it. He takes over games with grit. Mitchell needs to disperse his mentality to everyone.
Dominic Stearn: At times, the team’s shot selection is horrendous. They have been able to get away with it because they play in the MW, but they’ll go on two four-minute stretches a game where it is just jacked up 3’s and contested shots. This typically happens when Flynn is off the floor.
Michael Maciejewski: Rebounding. Rebounding is the team’s biggest weakness, and without Nathan Mensah, it stands out even more. They’ve done admirably employing a team rebounding strategy. However, they’ll likely get exposed by teams with multiple athletic bigs.
Do you think the team can address the weakness before March?
Tony Fantano: Honestly, the team is what it is now. It is going to take a bit of a mentality change to step up, even more, to fight off the blue bloods in March.
Dominic Stearn: Surely. More coaching than anything.
Michael Maciejewski: Getting Mensah back will go a long way in addressing the rebounding issue. Or having Joel Mensah or Keshad Johnson be more involved in the rotation, and they could be a solution to the rebounding issues.
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Native San Diegan living in Montana. Big time Aztec Basketball fan. Creator of Aztec Breakdown. Hoping to help people enjoy basketball more by increasing their understanding of it.