#56 San Diego State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

San Diego State Aztecs
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #56
Conference Rank: #2 Mountain West
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San Diego State will look a lot different this year with Steve Fisher not on the sidelines. After 18 usually great seasons, Coach Fisher retired and left the program to Brian Dutcher. Coach Dutcher has been the head coach in waiting for the last six years and has been an assistant under Fisher since 1989. Following last year’s disappointing 19 win season, the Aztecs should be much improved in 2017-2018 and compete for a conference title. The transition to the new head coach will go smoothly and with the top three scorers returning, there are plenty of reasons for the Aztecs to be optimistic.
2016-17 Record: 19-14, 9-9
2016-17 Postseason: None
Coach: Brian Dutcher
Coach Record: 0-0 at San Diego State, 0-0 overall
Who’s Out:
San Diego State does lose some key players though. Zylan Cheatham opted to transfer to Arizona State after averaging 9.1 points and 6.3 rebounds as a sophomore. The 6-9 forward started 22 games with the Aztecs last year and will certainly be missed in the paint. Dakarai Allen started all 33 games during his senior season. The 6-5 guard was not a consistent shooter, but he could finish by attacking the basket and was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-2017. Matt Shrigley spent his collegiate career being the tough guy in the paint. As a senior he averaged 5.2 points and 2.1 rebounds, but those numbers do not do him justice. Valentine Izundu and D’Erryl Williams were regular contributors off the bench during their senior seasons.
Who’s In:
Kameron Rooks and Devin Watson add some experience to the roster. Rooks spent three seasons at California. Last year he started ten games, including eight of the last nine games. On the year, the seven-footer averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds. With more playing time, Rooks should be a productive player during his lone season with the program. Watson comes from San Francisco where he was a star in the WCC. As a sophomore two years ago, he averaged 20.3 points and 4.9 assists. He could be the best three-point shooter on a team that already has some good shooters. Four freshmen will add some more depth to the SDSU roster, including redshirt freshmen Jalen McDaniels. The 6-9 forward is loaded with potential. Matt Mitchell, Jordan Schakel and Adam Seiko are the incoming freshmen. Schakel is a lanky 6-6 guard and has the best shot among the incoming freshmen to make a big impact right away.
Who to Watch:
Coach Dutcher has five players who started at least a couple games last season. Trey Kell and Jeremy Hemsley formed the best backcourt duo in the Mountain West last year and will again this year. Kell led the Aztecs with 13.2 points per game and added 2.9 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals. Kell is a leader on the floor and while his outside shooting has not been consistent, he is a consistent scorer. Hemsley connected on a team high 56 three-pointers at a 37.3 percent clip. He is the shooter of the bunch, but reserve forward Max Hoetzel can knock down shots too. He averaged 7.7 points per game and earned ten starts during his first season with the Aztecs after transferring in from Indiana. At 6-9 and 210 pounds, he can shoot over most defenders. Montaque Gill-Caesar will attempt some three-pointers, but he hit just five in 36 attempts last season. The 6-6 junior will have to hit more shots than that or he will see his minutes decrease.
Final Projection:
The star of the frontcourt should be Malik Pope. The 6-10 senior has yet to reach his full potential, but did improve his numbers as a junior, averaging 11.0 points and 6.1 rebounds. If San Diego State is going to push for a conference title and an NCAA Tournament berth, Pope will need to continue to develop his game. He can shoot the ball, but needs to play more like a forward who can shoot the ball and not just a big guard. San Diego State is always going to play good defense, even without Fisher, and now the hope is Coach Dutcher can get the offense moving in the right direction. The addition of Watson will certainly help boost the team’s poor shooting numbers. If the shots are falling, San Diego State will drastically boost their win total from last year.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jeremy Hemsley, Junior, Guard, 12.9 points per game
Devin Watson, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Trey Kell, Senior, Guard, 13.2 points per game
Malik Pope, Senior, Forward, 11.0 points per game
Kameron Rooks, Senior, Center, 4.9 points (at Cal)
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 68.5 (281st in nation, 11th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 62.5 (15, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.6 (299, 10)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.8 (8, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.1 (207, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 31.7 (318, 11)
Free-Throw Percentage: 41.6 (299, 10)
Rebound Margin: 1.3 (141, 4)
Assists Per Game: 10.9 (324, 11)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.7 (60, 3)