Boise State has played well in both games this season against San Diego State. If they are to win their quarterfinal matchup against the Aztecs in the Mountain West Tournament Wednesday afternoon, the Broncos must make someone other than Jamaal Franklin or Chase Tapley beat them.
That duo ranks #1 and #4 in the Mountain West Conference, respectively, in scoring. Franklin is hitting 17.1 points a game and averaging 8.0 rebounds (4th in the MWC). He has 30 steals, 19 blocked shots and has also hit 41 three-pointers this season. Franklin brings the complete package--he also is averaging 80.3% from the line and he gets there often (139-173). Tapley is averaging 15.2 points and 4.3 rebounds a game. He also has 53 steals and 15 blocks and is San Diego State's best three-point shooter at 42.1% (64-152).
San Diego State comes into the game with a 24-6 record, 10-4 in conference. In 25 of those 30 games, Franklin (14) and Tapley (11) have led the team in scoring.
This was supposed to be a year in which the Aztecs had a bit of a drop-off; they lost four key players from their sensational 34-3 team from last year. If you call six losses a drop-off, I can provide you with the names of several hundred coaches who would take that.
The amazing thing is that the Aztecs still are a deep team, with seven athletic players who play significant minutes. This is because San Diego State Coach Steve Fisher has three transfers who have caught on in San Diego--Xavier Thames from Washington State (10.5 ppg, 118 assists, fourth in the MWC), James Rahon from Santa Clara (9.1 ppg) and Garrett Green from LSU (6.1 points, 4.7 rebounds per game) .
Deshawn Stephens (5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game) and Tim Shelton (5.4 points, 4.9 rebounds) also play key roles for this team that almost assuredly will go to the NCAA Tournament no matter what happens this week. SD State has defeated three teams from the Pac-12 (USC, Arizona and Cal) and four of the six losses (UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State and Air Force) have come to Mountain West teams. The only non-conference losses were to Baylor and Creighton.
You look at the season records and figure this matchup is a blowout. But when you break it down, you see why Boise State has hung tough. In nearly every statistic--scoring offense, turnovers, rebounding, assists, etc., these two teams are nearly even. San Diego State averages 71.6 points a game to 68.6 for Boise State. San Diego State is a +5.1 in rebounding while the Broncos are +2.6. Turnovers are essentially even.
San Diego State has a slight edge in field goal percentage (45.7 to 42.8%) and they are only slightly better at the free-throw line (70% to 68.8%).
Where San Diego State has won both games this season, pure and simple, is defense. This is the single biggest difference between these two teams. The Aztecs allow 62.9 points to 66.3 for Boise State and even a more telling statistic is this one: SD State allows opponents to shoot just 39.8% while the Broncos allow 45.3%. This isn't good if you're last in the MWC in shooting, as Boise State is, or if you're near the top of the conference in shooting, as San Diego State is.
Keep an eye on the Boise State defense Thursday--they'll need to contest every shot and not allow any easy baskets to win. Tipoff is set for 1 p.m. in Las Vegas.