San Diego State

Steve Fisher

San Diego State’s underwhelming offense

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There are a few highly-ranked teams this season that thrive on defense but have so far left much to be desired on the other side of the ball. One such squad San Diego State. Despite their overwhelming victory against San Jose State tonight — 90-64, a game in which the Aztecs scored 1.20 points per possessions — SDSU truly struggles executing their halfcourt offense.

Other than Arizona, there isn’t another team this year that can lock up an opponent like Steve Fisher’s group. The Aztecs have defensively stymied opponents, holding teams overall to .91 points per possession — that OPPP is still a robust .95 in Mountain West play — but the Aztecs are an offensive mess. Of the handful of teams that could compete for the national title this year, a group that includes SDSU, no other squad possesses a lower offensive efficiency rating than SDSU (1.06 PPP). They don’t have a perimeter outlet since SDSU doesn’t take, or make, many threes, so the majority of their scoring has to come from within the arc or at the bucket, but that offense, specifically their two-point shooting, has suffered, hovering around 45 percent in conference play.

One would think a team with Xavier Thames, however, one of the country’s most dynamic guards, would field at least a somewhat competent offense, but Fisher’s squad simply has trouble getting easy baskets. The reason is surprising — SDSU is way too dependent on one-on-one and isolation possessions. The team’s assist rate is one of the lowest in Division I, a shocking 38.4 percent; nearly three-quarters of SDSU’s field goal attempts come in the halfcourt and the team’s effective field goal percentage for a non-transition attempt is under 50 percent. Taking the numbers deeper, and a troubling pattern is further fleshed out: a majority of the shots in those halfcourt sets are twos, and the Aztecs’ field goal percentage is just 32.5 percent.

A significant problem for the Aztecs is ball-watching: both Thames and Winston Shepard have usage rates of more than 25 percent, but no one Aztec who plays significant minutes has a rate over 20 percent. The team relies too heavily on both guards to create and distribute that the offense suffers when an opponent does manage to contain the backcourt.

This offensive stagnancy was evident in this weekend’s loss to New Mexico, managing only four assists and posting one of their worst offensive efficiency ratings this year (.75 PPP). San Diego State’s top 25 ranking is largely attributed to their defensive fortitude, but if the Aztecs fall early in the NCAA tournament, a large factor will likely be this inability to score.

Trey Kell commits to San Diego State

NCAA Basketball Tournament - North Carolina State v San Diego State
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San Diego State added a second commitment in the Class of 2014 on Tuesday night, as Trey Kell, one of the best scoring guards on the west coast, committed to Steve Fisher and the Aztecs.

The decision wasn’t much of a surprise. Kell’s decision reportedly came down to SDSU and Vanderbilt, and the Commodores have already added a number of perimeter players in their 2014 recruiting class.

“It’s a dream of mine to play Division I college basketball,” Kell told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “and to play it in my hometown at such a high-caliber program around family and friends is really a dream come true.”

Kell isn’t an overpowering athlete at the off-guard spot, but he’s got size and he understands how to score. He has range well beyond the three point line and he understands had to use change of pace to beat defenders off the dribble. He will score a lot of points in the Mountain West.

Kell is the No. 118 player in the class, according to Rivals. He’ll join Kevin Zabo in the Aztecs’ 2014 class.

San Diego State assistant Mark Fisher diagnosed with ALS

NCAA Basketball Tournament - North Carolina State v San Diego State
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San Diego State is restructuring it’s men’s basketball staff in light of the awful recent news that assistant coach Mark Fisher — the son of head coach Steve Fisher — has been diagnosed with ALS.

The 34-year-old Mark Fisher has been with the Aztecs for 12 seasons — the last six as an assistant coach — and he’ll be remaining with his father’s staff as an assistant to the head coach according to a release from the school.

Filling Fisher’s assistant coach spot will be David Velasquez, who has served as San Diego State’s director of player development the past six seasons after spending time as a manager for the Aztecs from 2002 through 2007.

This is certainly some very sad news heading into the new season and we wish the Fisher family the best during this difficult time.

New calendar requires programs to adjust preseason approach

WCC Basketball Tournament - Semifinals San Diego v Saint Mary's
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Friday marks the official start of the 2013-14 college basketball season, as programs are now allowed to begin practicing on September 27. The scheduling change essentially added three weeks to the college hoops calendar, and this has required programs to take another look at the way in which they handle the preseason.

The key for many coaches: getting their players ready for the upcoming season without running them into the ground. And with practices beginning even earlier, this has become an important balance to negotiate. With that in mind, both San Diego and San Diego State are thinking of ways in which to ensure that their players will be at peak physical condition when their seasons begin in early November according to Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“It basically makes the season three weeks longer,” USD coach Bill Grier said. “You have to be smart about it. In this business, you’re always worried that someone else is doing more than you. You can’t get caught up in that. Everyone I’ve talked to has the same concerns, and that’s injuries and burning your guys out.

“I think there’s going to be a learning curve for all of us because it’s the first time through. Everyone seems to have a different approach to it.”

The new calendar has also impacted the way in which schools open practice. Gone are the days of “Midnight Madness” marking the start of the college basketball season, a development that’s unfortunate in the eyes of many. But the fact of the matter is that things began to change when the NCAA allowed schools to kick things off at 5 p.m. local time on the Friday closest to October 15 instead of having to wait until late at night, so we’re somewhat used to teams eschewing the “Midnight Madness” idea.

With the rule change programs are allowed to practice 30 times within the 42-day period, which could mean that the preseason teaching won’t have the “hurried” feel that it did when practice began in mid-October. Will that ultimately have a positive impact on the quality of basketball being played, especially early in the season? Hopefully that will be the case.

San Diego State helps ailing Mountain West with win over Oklahoma

Jamaal Franklin
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The Mountain West Conference had drawn criticism over the first few days of this NCAA tournament, with member schools going 1-3 through Thursday. That mark includes a major upset of No. 3 New Mexico at the hands of No. 14 Harvard.

But No. 7 San Diego State worked Friday to change the Mountain West’s fate, staying in the driver’s seat against No. 10 Oklahoma on its way to a commanding 70-55 victory at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa.

San Diego State junior Jamaal Franklin scored 21 points on 6-of-13 and made all seven of his free throws while adding eight rebounds. While Franklin and James Rahon made an impact on the perimeter, Deshawn Stephens was a force on the interior that this Aztec team often lacks. He finished with seven points and 11 rebounds.

For all of the failings of the Mountain West in the first few rounds of this tournament, San Diego State is poised to be in a very good spot. They move on to play Florida Gulf Coast, a No. 15 seed, for a chance to advance to the Sweet 16. FGCU is no cake walk (you can just ask Georgetown about that) but San Diego State has the ability to get out in transition with Franklin and counter what the Eagles bring to the table when running the floor.

San Diego State and Colorado State are the remaining hopes for a conference that had such high expectations coming into the tournament. But the Aztecs will have to end a potential Cinderella’s run to advance.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_

Late Night Snacks: Mountain West battles highlighted Wednesday’s CBB action

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Games of the Day: 

St. Mary’s 70, BYU 69

The college basketball gods made us wait until the conclusion of the night to get the evening’s best ending. After Tyler Haws hit a fall-away floater in the lane to put BYU ahead by two with five seconds to go, Saint Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova threw up a half-court shot and sank it at the buzzer to give the Gaels a shocking road victory in the WCC.

Maryland 51, No. 14 NC State 50

Before Dellavedova’s huge shot to beat BYU, this looked like the undisputed Game of the Night. Pe’Shon Howard missed a floater falling away from the basket, but big man Alex Len was there for the putback with 0.9 seconds left. Maryland fans stormed the floor in celebration and the Terrapins now have a signature win on their resume over a Top 25 team.

Also of Note: Iowa State 69, West Virginia 67

Important Outcomes 

1. UNLV 82, No. 15 San Diego State 75

In the battle for Mountain West supremacy, UNLV coach Dave Rice went with a smaller lineup down the stretch to counter San Diego State and it worked out perfectly. Guard Anthony Marshall carried the Rebels with 20 points and UNLV proves how versatile a lineup it can put on the floor at any one time.

2. No. 19 New Mexico 79, Boise State 74 (OT)

Boise State is proving to be a legitimate threat in the Mountain West, despite ultimately falling in overtime to New Mexico. For the Lobos, the win Wednesday was done without much production from center Alex Kirk until the final minutes, which should be a good sign of versatility moving forward.

3. Towson 69, Delaware 66

Pat Skerry and the Towson Tigers went 1-31 overall last season. With a win Wednesday, Towson pulled to an even 9-9 and tied for second in the CAA with a 4-1 mark in the conference.


1. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary’s (18 points, 8 assists, half-court buzzer-beater to beat BYU)

See above for the link to Dellavedova’s heroics Wednesday, but it is worth noting that he went head-to-head with BYU’s Tyler Haws, even down to the final sequence of possessions. He turned in a big performance in a big spot for the Gaels.

2. Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State (27 points, 7 rebounds)

Despite the loss, Franklin had another All-Conference outing vs. UNLV. He was San Diego State’s No. 1 scoring option and for good reason. Even when defenders were cutting off his drive to the basket, he found a way to power through and score.

3. Majok Majok, Ball State (26 points, 13 rebounds)

The double-double man does it again for Ball State, though in a loss.

Also of Note: Derrick Marks, Boise State (27 points, 6 rebounds)


1. Tony Watson II, Buffalo (5 points, 1-of-12 FG)

Javon McCrea was able to carry the offensive load for Buffalo Wednesday night with his 33 points, compensating for others who struggled from the field, including Watson II. Buffalo fell to Kent State, 80-68.

2. Charles Mann, Georgia (3 points, 1-of-4 FG, 6 turnovers)

The Bulldogs turned the ball over 18 times in their double-digit loss to Missouri Wednesday night. Mann couldn’t get it going from the field and contributed to that turnover number with six of his own.

3. Scottie Haralson, Tulsa (0 points, 0-of-8 FG)

Tulsa got the win over UTEP Wednesday night, 45-42, but it wasn’t pretty. The Golden Hurricane shot 40 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 16 times.

Daniel Martin is a writer and editor at, covering St. John’s. You can find him on Twitter:@DanielJMartin_