#44 San Diego State Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

San Diego State Aztecs
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #44
Conference Rank: #1 Mountain West
San Diego State dominated the Mountain West Conference during the 2015-16 regular season as they went 16-2 in conference play. But, thanks to the overall weakness of the conference, the Aztecs failed to make the NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs came up short in their quest for an automatic bid for the Mountain West Conference by losing in the conference tournament. However, Coach Steve Fisher was able to get his squad to take advantage of playing in the NIT as they advanced to the semifinals at Madison Square Garden before falling to George Washington.
2015-16 Record: 28-10, 16-2
2015-16 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Steve Fisher
Coach Record: 367-195 at San Diego State, 476-274 overall
Who’s Out:
Winston Shepard was a rock for this team last season at forward. Shepard scored just under 12 points per game and led the team in rebounding at 6.4 per game. Shepard did a nice job of distributing the basketball as well last season, averaging just over three assists per contest on the way to earning second team Mountain West honors. Skylar Spencer is going to be the missed on the defensive end of the basketball court after earning Defensive Player of the Year honors in the Mountain west Conference last season. Spencer was a dominant shot blocker and helped Shepard control the rebounding battle on a nightly basis. Angelo Chol was a solid role player off the bench last season, while also starting nine games.
Who’s In:
Montaque Gill-Caesar, a transfer from Missouri, should also be able to jump start the offense for San Diego State. Gill-Caesar scored just under ten points per game back in 2014-15 as a freshman for the Tigers. Incoming freshman Jalen McDaniels who was arguably the best player in the State of Washington for Federal Way High School is going to provide some much needed versatility right out of the gate for the Aztecs. SDSU also adds Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu, Indiana transfer Max Hoetzel and redshirt freshman Nolan Narains.
Who to Watch:
Jeremy Hemsley, Trey Kell and Zylan Cheatham will be back to anchor the starting lineup for the Aztecs this season.  Kell will be one of the best returning guards in the Mountain West Conference for 2016-17 and will be looking to build upon his first team all-conference performance from last season when he came on strong during the second half of the year. Hemsley was the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year and has a ton of potential to get even better this season. The key for Hemsley will be his ability to adjust to how teams defend him as the rest of the Mountain West will have a year of video to scout him more thoroughly. Cheatham should take a big step forward this season as he will be another year removed from the issues he had with a broken foot during his freshman season. The ability to bring consistent high energy at both ends of the court will be very important for Cheatham in order for San Diego State to maintain its defensive edge. Senior guard Dakarai Allen is back and will be one of the better lock down defensive perimeter players in the nation this season. Allen’s ability to create havoc all over the court sets the tone for the rest of the team defensively. Malik Pope turned down the NBA Draft and is back once again this season. Pope is going to have to boost his scoring to over ten plus points per game this season to take some pressure off the rest of team and increase the margin for error for the Aztecs.
Final Projection:
The overall level of depth and experience that is returning for Coach Fisher can’t be underestimated. Mid-Major teams that usually make the most noise in the NCAA Tournament are experienced and can defend the basketball at a high level. As usual San Diego State doesn’t shy away from a challenge on their schedule as they will go to Gonzaga in mid-November to get a great test to see where they stand nationally right away. A week later brings a neutral site matchup against California at the new Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. These two games, along with a trip to the Diamond Head Classic around Christmas, are going to be critical for picking up wins out of conference. If the Aztecs can take care of business, they will be in much better shape this year on Selection Sunday and they won’t be able to rely on a strong conference schedule to help them much. Overall, look for enough improvement offensively for San Diego State to win the Mountain West Conference and return to the NCAA Tournament this season.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Trey Kell, Junior, Guard, 12.6 Points per game
Jeremy Hemsley, Sophomore, Guard, 12.0 points per game
Montaque Gill-Caesar, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Malik Pope. Junior, Forward, 7.3 points per game
Zylan Cheatham, Sophomore, Forward, 7.9 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.6 (268th in nation, 10th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 60.6 (3, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.1 (263, 11)
Field-Goal Defense: 37.3 (1, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.8 (284, 10)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.3 (278, 9)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.7 (216, 8)
Rebound Margin: 5.5 (32, 1)
Assists Per Game: 10.7 (325, 11)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.3 (139, 6)
Madness 2017 NBA Draft Rankings:
#48 Malik Pope
Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#103 Jalen McDaniels