2013-14 College Basketball Season Preview: San Diego State

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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San Diego State Aztecs (Last Year: 23-11, 9-7 in MWC)

2013-14 Projected Depth Chart:

F/C: Skylar Spencer (Soph)/James Johnson (Jr)

F: Josh Davis (Sr)/Dwayne Polee (Jr)

G/F: J.J. O’Brien (Jr)/Matt Shrigley (Fr)

G/F: Winston Shepard (Soph)/Dakari Allen (Fr)/Ageel Quinn (Jr)

G: Xavier Thames (Sr)/D’Erryl Williams (Fr)

Gone: G/F-Jamaal Franklin, G-Chase Tapley, F/C-Deshawn Stephens, SG-James Rahon, PG-LaBradford Franklin (transfer)

2013-14 Outlook:
With four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and an average of almost 27 wins per season during the past five years, the San Diego State Aztecs have emerged as one of the most consistent teams out West. Steve Fisher loses his top two players from last year though so expect a bit of a dip this season.

With Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley gone, the Aztecs need some new faces to step into larger roles. Xavier Thames is the team’s top returning scorer, and will technically be the team’s starting point guard, but Fisher has some versatile guys capable of playing a point forward-type role in J.J. O’Brien and Winston Shepard.

At 6-7 and 6-8 respectively, O’Brien and Shepard are unique players for their size. O’Brien is more of a physical presence who can play inside or outside, while Shepard relies on his athleticism. Shepard played like a freshman last season with some poor decision-making but easily possesses the most potential on the team.

There is a lack of experience coming off the bench in the backcourt. Redshirt freshman Matt Shrigley, Cal State-Northridge transfer Ageel Quinn, and true freshmen Dakari Allen and D’Eryl Williams will all compete for minutes. Allen fits the mold of an Aztec wing with his length, versatility and ability to defend, so expect to see immediate playing time.

The frontcourt received a huge boost with the addition of Tulane transfer Josh Davis, who becomes eligible right away since he is pursuing his graduate degree. Originally beginning his collegiate career at N.C. State, Davis had a beastly two years with the Green Wave, averaging nearly 18 points and 11 rebounds per game last season. For a team that lacked a true low post scorer a year ago, Davis definitely helps fill that void.

Skylar Spencer is expected to start down low alongside Davis. Spencer is still a fairly raw talent on the offensive end but made his mark last year as a rim-protector. A pair of former transfers, James Johnson (Virginia) and Dwayne Polee (St. John’s) add depth inside. Johnson is more of a prototypical big man, who never really found his niche with the team last year after becoming eligible midway through the season. Polee is a long, wirey, athletic combo forward who really excels in transition.

Fisher also picked up another transfer in former Arizona big man, Angelo Chol. He is an active, high energy player who must sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

The Aztecs will finish in the upper half of the Mountain West Conference standings, but I think San Diego State is a step behind teams like New Mexico and Boise State. Still, Fisher should have his program back in the NCAA Tournament for a fifth consecutive year.

Player to Watch: Winston Shepard, SF
The Aztec roster is loaded with versatile players but Shepard is by far the most talented of the bunch. He can play anywhere from the one to the four on both ends of the floor and should see a serious increase in workload and responsibility as a sophomore.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/14 vs. Arizona
  • 11/28 vs. Charleston (Wooden Legacy)
  • 11/29 vs. Creighton/Arizona State (Wooden Legacy)
  • 12/1 vs. Marquette/Cal State-Fullerton/Miami FL/George Washington (Wooden Legacy)
  • 12/8 vs. Washington
  • 1/5 at Kansas

  • Predicted MWC Finish: 3rd

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