8. San Diego State (26-8, 14-4/Mountain West)–This isn’t Steve Fisher’s best San Diego State team, but it’s still a dangerous squad that plays defense as well as any team in the country. The Aztecs rank second in the nation in points allowed, and have rangy, long wing defenders like 6-8 Winston Shepard, 6-7 Dwyane Polee II and 6-7 J.J O’Brien.
That trio, along with 6-3 guard Aqeel Quinn, have caused havoc for teams on defense, and also happen to be the top four guys on the team in scoring, though none averages more than 11.1 points per game. San Diego State games can get ugly, but that’s how Steve Fisher likes to play, and he forces opponents to play his way, no matter what.
That can be a good thing–like when the Aztecs beat Utah in November, 53-48, or it can be bad–like when SDSU lost to Pac-12 doormat Washington, 49-36.
305th Points per Game (61.8)
263rd Field Goal Percentage (.419)
2nd Points Allowed (53.1)
9. St. John’s (21-11, 10-8/Big East)–It’s kind of hard to understand why those around the program (particularly radio host Brandon Tierney), thought that the Johnnies were a lock for the NCAA Tournament a few weeks back. Sure, St. John’s finished above- .500 in a watered-down Big East, but this team didn’t exactly exude confidence all season long.
St. John’s had a stretch in which it lost six of seven, including games to Big East bottom-feeders Creighton and DePaul. They were absolutely demolished by Villanova in the regular season finale (105-68), and made an early exit from the Garden in the conference tournament (74-57 to Providence).
To add to all that, St. John’s lost big man Chris Obekpa, to a violation of team rules. He won’t be available for the NCAA Tournament. Hate to be a downer, but there’s no doubt–St. John’s is trending downward heading into the Big Dance.
Of course, there are reasons for optimism. All-Big East guard D’Angelo Harrison (17.5 ppg) is a stud, sophomore Rysheed Jordan (14.3 ppg) can easily get hot, and neither of those guys are even the best player on the team.
That would probably be senior Sir’Dominic Pointer, who averages 13.6 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2.4 blocks and 2 steals per game.
4th Blocks per game (6.5)
60th Defensive Rebounding (25.1)
130th Field Goal Percentage (44%)
PREDICTION: Despite all of the negatives, St. John’s does have a lot going for it. The Red Storm are vastly more talented on offense than San Diego State, but Steve Fisher is such a great coach that it may not matter. We’re taking San Diego State in a barn-burner.