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Xavier Thames Leads San Diego State Surge

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Jayne Kamin-Oncea – USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs lost their everything last season. Jamaal Franklin, now a member of the Memphis Grizzlies organization, led the team in points, rebounds, steals and assists last season. The Aztecs have managed to overcome such a tremendous loss under the direction of head coach Steve Fisher this season, and find themselves back in the top 25 at No. 24.

San Diego State finds themselves as the lone ranked opponent in the Mountain West Conferencealthough conference foes New Mexico and Boise State are also on the cusp of breaking into the top 25. After two tough wins against Creighton and Marquette, San Diego State found themselves in a peculiar dog fight against inter-city rival San Diego.

Three days after putting their fan base on cardiac arrest watch, the Aztecs faced the pesky Washington HuskiesWashington is two days removed from poaching the unpoachable Chris Petersen, and it appears the football program’s big win rubbed off on their basketball team. Well, in the first half anyhow.

San Diego State’s leading scorer Xavier Thames sparked a 17-2 run at the beginning of the second half. Thames was relatively quiet in the first half, but made up for it when it mattered, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the second half. San Diego State just didn’t get it done on the offensive end, their defense picked it up too. The defense held Huskies field goal-less for the first seven minutes of the second half. The Aztecs played well enough on both ends to win 70-63.

Franklin or no Franklin, Fisher’s Aztecs are still one of the top teams in the MWC. Jan. 5, San Diego State will have to travel to the unfriendly confines of Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, KS to face the Kansas Jayhawks.

Jack Dooley is a Big 12 Basketball writer for Rants Sports. You can follow him of Twitter @JackDooleyOCS and Facebook.

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NCAA Tournament Profile: San Diego State Aztecs

Record: 26-8

RPI: 26

BPI: 42

Conference: Mountain West Conference

How They Qualified: At-Large Berth

Region: No. 8 in the South

 

Another year in the Mountain West, and yet another year the San Diego State Aztecs were one of the conference’s top teams (tied for first place with the Boise State Broncos in the regular season conference standings).

The MW hasn’t been getting a whole lot of love this year, but this isn’t San Diego State’s first rodeo — not even close. In fact, most fans probably expect the Aztecs to make the tournament on a yearly basis now.

 

What You Need to Know:

Leading Scorer: Aqeel Quinn, Winston Shepard (11.1 PPG)

Leading Rebounder: Winston Shepard (5.3 RPG)

Leading Passer: J.J. O’Brien (2.5 APG)

Bad Losses: Fresno State, Washington

Good Wins: Utah, BYU, Pittsburgh, Wyoming (twice), Colorado State (twice)

 

Needless to say, the Aztecs challenged themselves this season, and got a huge win over Utah. They also played the Arizona Wildcats (only lost by two points) and Cincinnati Bearcats (lost in overtime). Both teams are also part of the field of 68.

Yeah, San Diego State certainly didn’t have an easy non-conference schedule, but that should only benefit it in the dance, a tournament that features an endless amount of talent and a boatload of teams with different playing styles.

The Aztecs made it to the Sweet 16 last season, but that team also had Xavier Thames. The NCAA tournament can be a weird beast, though, so it will be interesting to see if this version of San Diego State can go on a deeper run.

The San Diego State Aztecs are dancing!

Trevor Lowry is a Content Associate at RantSports.com. If you’re a tweeter feel free to follow him @TheTrevorLowry, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

The San Diego State Aztecs will be making yet another appearance in the NCAA tournament.

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