No. 13 San Diego State


 (US Presswire)  
By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Blogger

Coach: Steve Fisher

Years at school: 13 (258-157; 441-237 in career)

Best NCAA tournament finish: Sweet 16 (2011)

Vital Info: No. 13 San Diego State
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Last season's record: 26-8 (lost to North Carolina State in Round of 64)

Notable returnees from last season: Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, Xavier Thames

Notable losses from last season: Tim Shelton

Notable newcomers: Dwayne Polee II, JJ O'Brien, Winston Shepard

Projected starters: G: Chase Tapley; G: Xavier Thames; F: Jamaal Franklin; F: JJ O'Brien; F: Winston Shepard

Why this team will be good: The Aztecs are deep and undeniably talented. SDSU has three transfer players from major conferences added to the roster this season. Then you consider Franklin, who's a top-15 player nationally, and suddenly it looks like the Aztecs could come close to being the team they were two years ago, when they earned a two seed. Franklin is a pro, for sure. He played a lot of combo forward last year, leaning toward playing the 4. Expect him to drift back to primarily being a 3 -- which should be good news for the Aztecs.

And since so many guys return from last year, it's only right to believe SDSU can crack into being a top-75 offensive team and top-40 one defensively, in terms of tempo-free play. And I'm lowballing those estimates. (Last year SDSU was 94th and 54th, respectively.) If Fisher's team truly plays adroitly and can go nine deep, the Aztecs will fight UNLV to the end for the Mountain West title.

Why this team might disappoint: Hard to see how, but if there's a way, it could be getting all that talent all those minutes and all those touches. What will happen is you'll have a guy like Tapley, who took a team-high 440 shots last year. Is he getting that many in 2012-13? Doubtful. Overall, you'll have a lot of talented guys not playing a lot of minutes. That could create a minor schism. Aside from that, there is weakness down low. SDSU doesn't have a reliable low-block scorer. Polee II is a great athlete but he's not a true post guy, and O'Brien is a face-up big.

Bottom line: It's going to be a fun team to watch, and if Franklin becomes a major star then look out. He'll need to prevent the offense from getting stagnant, for sure. Shepard will probably start the year coming off the bench, but I think he's in the lineup by conference play. Shepard's a four-star recruit, a guy who is a great defender and can guard many positions. Good athleticism, too, and will likely give the Aztecs a kick in transition. The coaches believe O'Brien is the best of the transfer bunch, or at least he was in practice least year, but Polee II and James Johnson will also produce. Johnson comes by way of Virginia and is eligible after the winter break.

Quote from an opposing coach in the league: "There's not a lot of bad. Since I've been in the league, they're a tough scout. Steve Fisher is very underrated as a coach. They're so solid defensively. On paper they were small but they shot the ball so well. Thames, Tapley and (James) Rahon shoot so well. Thames had a bum knee down the stretch and wasn't playing nearly 100 percent, but early in the season when he was clicking he was lights out. Now this year they get three key transfers, have a terrific recruiting class and the biggest challenge this year will be how they manage minutes. And that's a great problem. Offensively they're very predictable and easy to know what's coming. If you don't turn it over against them you're not getting anything in transition."

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