NCAA Tournament West Regional Semifinal
#2 San Diego St Aztecs vs #3 Connecticut Huskies
Honda Center, Anaheim, CA
Thursday, March 24, 2011, 7:15 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Opening Line: San Diego St -1
Current Line: pick or UConn -1
Opening Total: 128 1/2
Current Total: 128 1/2
Money Line: UConn -120 / SDSU +100
Though Connecticut had to fly across country to Anaheim for this game, and San Diego St took a 90 minute bus ride to play this game, both team have had to travel many miles to get to this point. At the beginning of the season neither of these teams were expected to make it this far. Though Connecticut is one of college basketball’s elite programs who regularly compete for national titles under Coach Jim Calhoun, the young Huskies were expected to be at least a year away. They were projected to finish tenth in the Big East. The Huskies’ coming out party was the Maui Invitational where UConn beat Wichita St, Michigan St and Kentucky in three consecutive days to win the tournament. UConn is 28-9 overall and finished 9th in the Big East at 9-9. Led by All-American guard Kemba Walker, UConn went on an amazing run in the Big East Tournament where they won 5 games in 5 days to win the tournament. That vaulted them from a potential 5,6, or 7 seed to a number 3 seed. In the NCAA tournament, UConn beat Bucknell 81-52 in the second round and fellow Big East foe Cincinnati in the third round 69-58. The Huskies have won 7 straight.
For San Diego St, many expected them to make the NCAA tournament for the second consecutive year under coach Steve Fisher. No one expected them to be one of the best teams in the country though. The Aztecs are 34-2 overall and finished tied with BYU for the Mountain West Conference regular season title with a 14-2 record. Both of San Diego St’s losses were to BYU. The Aztecs have also won 7 straight games. In the tournament, San Diego St defeated Northern Colorado 68-50 in the second round and escaped with a 71-64 double overtime victory over Temple in the third round.
San Diego St and Connecticut have never played each other before. That is not really surprising given the distance between the two schools. What is somewhat surprising is the two Hall of Fame Coaches have never coached against each other. Even though Steve Fisher regularly made deep runs into the tournament when he was at Michigan, he never crossed paths with Jim Calhoun’s UConn teams. San Diego St is 22-11 ATS in all games this season, including 11-4 in non-conference games, and 15-5 versus teams with winning records. UConn is 20-11 ATS in all games this season, including 10-0 in neutral site/tournament games, and 7-0 in non-conference games. UConn is 18-9 ATS versus teams with winning records this season.
Connecticut guard Kemba Walker is probable with a hip injury. Walker is a first team All-American. The 6’1″ Walker is averaging 23.6 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 1.9 steals a game. He leads the team in scoring, assists, and steals. Guard/forward Jeremy Lamb averages 10.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists a game. Forward/center Alex Oriakhi averages 9.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game. He leads the team in rebounds and blocks. Guard Shabazz Napier averages 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.6 steals a game. UConn is outscoring opponents 74-66 on the year. The Huskies are shooting 43.4% from the field and 33.4% from 3-point range. Husky opponents are shooting 39.9% from the field. The Huskies shoot 76% from the free throw line. UConn averages 39.7 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +4.8. UConn averages 13.2 assists and 11.5 turnovers a game. They force 11.8 turnovers a game on defense. They average 6.5 steals and 5.6 blocks a game.
San Diego St is pretty healthy right now. The Aztecs are led by second team All-American forward Kawhi Leonard. He is averaging a double double with 15.6 points, and 10.6 rebounds to lead the team in each category. He also averages 2.5 assists and leads the team in steals with 1.5 a game. Forward Malcolm Thomas averages 11.4 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and leads the team in blocks with 2.1 a game. Senior point guard D.J. Gay is averaging 11.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists to lead the team and 1.1 steals a game. Billy White is averaging 10.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals a game. Chase Tapley is averaging 8.7 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 steals a game. San Diego St is outscoring opponents 72-59 on the season. The Aztecs shoot 46.4% from the field and 35% from 3-point range. Aztec opponents are shooting 39.3% from the field. SDSU makes 70.2% of their free throws. The Aztecs average 37.8 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +6.9. San Diego St averages 13.5 assists and 10.9 turnovers a game. SDSU forces 12.6 turnovers a game on defense. The Aztecs average 6.2 steals and 4.7 blocks a game.
San Diego St makes its living on defense. They only allowed 64 points to Temple in double overtime. Though most people haven’t seen San Diego St play this season and wonder why UConn isn’t a heavier favorite, the Aztecs have the talent to create nightmares for Kemba Walker. San Diego St is no stranger to guarding All-American guards as they have faced BYU and Jimmer Fredette 3 times this season. Though the Aztecs have never made it to the sweet 16 before this year, they actually have more experience than the young Huskies. SDSU has 5 seniors on their roster including White, Gay, and Thomas. Though Walker is a junior for the Huskies, UConn has 7 freshmen on the roster. I think San Diego St will do just enough to pull out a close game.
Our college basketball handicappers are red hot in the tournament. Don’t miss out on any more winners from now until they cut down the nets next month in Houston.