Game Day Breakdown of #9 Syracuse vs. #20 San Diego State: projected starting lineups, keys to the…
Attacking the Syracuse zone
That's the initial thought when one thinks of Syracuse basketball.
San Diego State will have to find a way to attack that 2/3 zone come Sunday afternoon on the Battle on the Midway.
The Aztecs have been preparing for the Orangemen for about two weeks including two exhibition games.
"We're very comfortable," SDSU guard Xavier Thames said. "Now we get extra time to work on it as well. We've been working on it for the past 10 days. We're getting comfortable. I know the coaches will have us prepared for Sunday as well."
It was in the first exhibition game (vs. Cal State San Marcos) that SDSU head coach Steve Fisher asked the opposition to play zone in the first half. While in the second game (vs. UC San Diego) the Tritons showed flashes of a zone.
SDSU progressively got better with their zone offense during the two contests.
"I think we did pretty good," O'Brien said. "There zones were good but they don't emulate a Syracuse zone. I think we did good; did a good job getting to the middle, shooting against it, finding ways to score against it."
The size of ‘Cuse will be the largest concern for the Aztecs, no pun intended. The east coast squad's starting five is listed at 6-foot-4, 6-foot-6, 6-foot-8, 6-foot-9 and 6-foot-9.
"Their big's are much bigger than us," O'Brien said. "They are athletic, stronger than us. It's basketball and we are just going to play basketball. We are going to play defense, be strong, box out rebound and do our part and we'll be fine."
How will SDSU look to attack the zone?
"We have set plays for it but mainly its just concepts of moving the ball, trying to get into the middle," O'Brien explained. "Just trying to exploit the defense in any way possible."
The perimeter players will look to get the ball to forward J.J. O'Brien who will be in the middle of the Aztecs zone offense, moving in-and-out of the lane, up to the high post.
Once the Utah transfer gets the ball then the 6-foot-7 playmaker will go to work.
"It's all about what the defense is doing so if they collapse on you so you're looking to kick it," O'Brien explained. "If they fan out or give you the space then you can create something yourself but it's all about reading the defense. They can do a different thing every time so depending on what they do, I'll be able to find my teammates or find some way to score."
Huge key for SDSU on Sunday will be if the Aztecs are able to push the ball down court on every chance and get early offensive opportunities.
"That's going to be the big thing," O'Brien explained. "One of the best ways to beat a zone is to beat it down the court is to beat it down the court and not let them get set up. Anytime we can run we are going to look to push. We are good in the sense of having a lot of guards who can get the rebound and go instead of trying to find the point guard. In that way we are going to try and push, get easy buckets when we can."
Sunlight, Sun Bright!
Now that the Battle on the Midway is rescheduled for Sunday at 1:00 p.m. players will have to deal with sunlight during the game against Syracuse.
"I did worry about it, but our younger coaches, Tony Bland, especially, has Ray Ban wraparounds for the coaches and black under the eyes for the players," Fisher explained. "So I don't think we'll have a problem with the sun. We're going to be okay with that."
Really, eye black for the players?
"That was tongue-in-cheek when I said that," Fisher laughed. "We coaches may wear sunglasses, but the players aren't going to wear black under their eyes and have the 619 or 916 area code written on them."
-As of Tuesday the coaching staff has not spoken with anyone about redshirting this season.
-Syracuse have changed their travels as they will be coming in Friday night due to the Battle on the Midway game being postponed.
-Member of the media asked the following question: The football team is starting to take a little of your [basketball team] thunder with their recent success. What have you thought as fellow coaches and fellow student-athletes looking at their success?
"We have never given thought to stealing our thunder," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher replied. "We are so proud of what Rocky Long and the football team have done, and we have been some of their strongest supporters."
"Here at San Diego State, we're all one big family," Thames added. "No matter what sport team it is, basketball, football, soccer, we all support each other. We're just all Aztecs, so that's what I was going to say."
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