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NCAA Basketball

Xavier Thames Carrying San Diego State to Tournament Dominance

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a team in the NCAA tournament, it is imperative that your best players show up for every game and make their presences felt. It just so happens that Xavier Thames’ presence appears to be enough to carry San Diego State to a deep tournament run.

The senior guard has been the best player on the court in every game he has played in since the tournament began. Thames has provided the Aztecs with a powerful offensive punch that few teams have. Few guards in the college basketball ranks match his quickness and athleticism. He has the ability to attack the hole and the stroke to knock down perimeter shots.

In SDSU’s Thursday tourney matchup with New Mexico State, Thames scored a game-high 23 points and five assists in a 73-69 overtime victory. He also forced three steals and two blocks. His team benefited most from his consistent free-throw shooting as he went 10-for-12 from the line. He was a man determined to advance.

Tonight, against a hot-shooting North Dakota State Bison (or Bizon as North Dakotans call them), Thames was in even more rare form. Once again he led all scorers with 30 points and dished a game-high five assists. He was the Aztecs’ offense as the second-highest scorer was reserve forward Dwayne Polee II, who scored 15 points, but played starter minutes. The rest of SDSU’s team played somewhat uninspired, but Thames was all it needed to beat the Bison 63-44.

If he can continue to play like this, the Aztecs may have enough offense to compliment their stellar defense. He has had an incredible season, but is having a better tournament. There are few players increasing their draft stock as much as Thames is right now, but he is obviously concentrating on winning on a national championship.

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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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