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San Diego State
The most impressive team of the college basketball season so far might be San Diego State. While the Mountain West isn't exactly a power conference, a 19-1 record should definitely be respected at this point. The bad news is that they haven't exactly played the best teams in the MWC on the road yet and that starts with this game at Boise State.
SDSU has conference road wins at Air Force, San Jose State and Utah State (overtime), but those teams are near the bottom of the standings. The Broncos are near the middle with a 15-7 record and won't be an easy game.
The fact that Boise State gave trouble to the Aztecs on the road back on Jan. 8 says a lot. SDSU won 69-66, but despite being down by double-digits for most of the game, the Broncos held their ground and got within one point with a minute to go.
BSU only has one loss at home this year, but that one was to Wyoming, which may end up being a pretty big one at the end of the year. As for San Diego State, if all goes well, it could have a case for a No. 1 seed at year's end. Wins over Creighton and at Kansas are nice, while its only loss to Arizona is also respectable. But as mentioned before, road games against the top half of teams in the MWC won't be a cakewalk.
The Aztecs have one of the highest rated defenses in the country, but the Broncos actually scored 40 points in the second half of the last meeting. As usual for Boise, guards Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks were huge, combining for 38 points. The Broncos out-rebounded the Aztecs by five, but SDSU scored 21 points from the free-throw line, which was the deciding factor.
Once again, Drmic and Marks are going to be the players to watch out for. They average 33 points per game as a duo with only one other player on BSU averaging double-digits, and that's big man Ryan Watkins, who has been a complete beast this year. His numbers have been huge lately and he is now up to a double-double per game with 11.4 PPG and 10.8 RPG. It's usually a bonus when other players can put a couple in with guys like Jeff Elorriaga (8.3 PPG) and Mikey Thompson (8.7 PPG).
As for the Aztecs, they'll need big man Josh Davis in this one after he missed Saturday's game due to a bone bruise in his knee. While they do have plenty of depth, it's hard to play without a guy that averages 8.9 PPG and 11.6 RPG. You can't easily makeup those numbers.
Another matchup to watch is in the backcourt with SDSU's best player, Xavier Thames, who leads the team with 18 points per game. It's almost a given that he'll get his points, as well as forward Winston Shepard (13.1 PPG), but like Boise, who's going to score outside of the main options? In road games, you need a role player to come through. The Aztecs have the players as well, with big man Skylar Spencer improving his overall game this season and Aqeel Quinn coming off the bench.
The schedule is about to get a bit tougher for San Diego State and a win here would be huge for its confidence in road games. If Boise State wants to sneak into the bracket again this year, this is the type of game it has to win. With only one ranked team in the conference, the Broncos will need at least one of these types of wins on their résumé.
Predicted Score San Diego St 68 Boise State 68
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