San Diego State guard Chase Tapley showed up for the shootaround five hours before Saturday night's…
Game Day Breakdown: CSU at No. 16 SDSU
Time: 5:00 p.m. PST
Location: Viejas Arena in San Diego, CA
Colorado State (13-2)
Head Coach: Larry Eustachy
CSU Record: 13-2 / 1st season
Projected Starting Lineup
*G – Dorian Green (Sr.) 6'2, 192
The senior lead guard averaged 12.7 points and 3.8 assists during non-conference play this season.
*G – Wes Eikmeier (Sr.) 6'3, 168
Elkmeier earned first team all-Mountain West after he led the Rams in scoring last year with 15.5 points a game. He now averages just a tad under 11 but spreads the floor for the Rams' bigs due to his shooting. The fifth year senior is also one of the best free throw shooters in the nation.
*F – Greg Smith (Sr.) 6'6, 221
*F – Pierce Hornung (Sr.) 6'5, 210
The senior forward is nearly a double-double machine with 9.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He will test the Aztecs front court as the bruiser is active and has a knack for 50-50 balls. Oh yeah, he's also connecting on 57% of his shots.
F – Colton Iverson (Sr.) 6'10, 261
The near 7-footer will be a challenge like the Aztecs haven't seen all season.
"Iverson is the biggest and truest low-post center in our league," SDSU head coach Steve Fisher said.
Iverson, Minnesota transfer. will look to gain low post position early. He dominates the ball down low and the Rams will look to pound it inside to him. The fifth year senior is averaging 14.7 points on 59% shooting and 8.9 rebounds.
The first man off the bench for the Rams is Arizona transfer Daniel Bejarano. He's a shooter that is averaging 6.6 points. Half his shots come from beyond the arc but is only connecting on 33% of them. Redshirt sophomore Jon Ocetus is their lengthy, slasher wing. Rounding up CSU's 8-man rotation is junior big man Gerson Santo from Brazil who spells the two bigs for about 10 minutes a game. He's grabbing over 8 rebounds per 40 minutes.
16/15 San Diego State (13-2)
Head Coach: Steve Fisher
SDSU Record: 271-162 / 14th season
Projected Starting Lineup
*G – Xavier Thames (Jr.) 6'3, 190
The lead guard is dealing with a lower back strain that made him miss the Mountain West opener against Fresno State on Wednesday. His status for CSU is up in the air.
"Xavier did a little bit, at least from our vantage point, yesterday [Thuesday]," Fisher said. "He went through and jogged through some stuff, which is the first time he's done that in a long time."
"It's going to have to be his decision. We don't want to do anything that would jeopardize his health first, or the long-term health of him and the team. So we've got to make sure he is physically capable of going. Right now, I'm not sure."
Freshman Winston Shepard will earn his second straight start if Thames can't go. It would be a major hit to the Aztecs offense and depth.
*G – Chase Tapley (Sr.) 6'5, 205
*F – Jamaal Franklin (Jr.) 6'5, 205
While Franklin did have 20 points, career-high 18 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 blocks against the Bulldogs, members of the media wondered how does Fisher handle a player like him.
"He is (a challenge), there's no question about it," Fisher said. "But let's not forget I was part of the group that coached the Fab 5 (at Michigan), and they pushed the envelope a little bit also. I've never been afraid to allow good players wiggle room to be good players. I want to make it the easiest way to be productive. So I'm not worried about what others say. I'm only worried about what I want done and what we're doing."
F – J.J. O'Brien (So.) 6'7, 225
The Utah transfer took a huge fall against Fresno State that limited him in the second half but he should be ready to go vs. the Rams.
"J.J. is very sore and stiff," Fisher said. "His neck, shoulder and back (are hurting). He took a very hard, nasty fall. Whether he's 100- percent remains to be seen. But I do believe he will try to play, and then we'll go from there."
Not entirely the most favorable opponent for O'Brien who has struggled on the glass for a typical four-man. Hornung will make him work. It's quite possible we could see Franklin slide into his spot with a mid-game adjustment.
F – Deshawn Stephens (Sr.) 6'8, 225
This matchup will be a huge test for the senior. He'll have his hands full trying to guard Iverson who is a legitimate low post threat. Stephens will have to be focused on his defensive rotations and finding his man to box out when a shot goes up.
If Thames is unable to go the bench thins up dramatically. Shepard will slide into the starting rotation and James Rahon will need to pick up the offensive output. But if Thames were able to play, Shepard and Rahon will be the first off the bench and anything offensively turns into a positive. Freshman Skylar Spencer might get some extra playing time in this one with Iverson being a mismatch on the low block. He's already shown the ability to be an excellent help defender.
(* Returning Starter)
Keys to the Game
1) Rebounding. Colorado State grabs almost 15 offensive boards a game and out rebound their opponents by 14 every 40 minutes. Aztecs will need to continue to team rebound in this one and find some extra possessions on offense.
2) Turnovers. Rams are one of the best squads in the nation at protecting the ball. Turning the ball over just 11 times per contest. An up and down, sloppy ball game will only benefit the Aztecs.
3) X. Thames is the largest question mark heading into the game. Will he play and if so will he be at full strength. The importance of SDSU's lead guard showed on Wednesday night in Fresno.
What to Watch
San Diego State
"It's just being comfortable," Franklin explained on how different it is to prepare for CSU this season with a new coach. "We know what they do, but we've got to watch players and know everything about them because we're not really that familiar with that team because we don't see them playing that much. But I?'ve been around three years, so you just do it from memory."
"I would say they throw it in the post more," Franklin discussed the difference between the Rams this year and last season. "Last year, they didn't do it too much, but when you have a great player like Iverson, you throw the ball in. And it looks like they try to play more inside-out instead of outside-in."
"We've got an exceptional Colorado State team coming in, an NCAA Tournament team from a year ago. They've got all of their players back with the addition of three really, really outstanding guys that are helping them win."
"So we're looking forward to a great game. I think both teams feel they have an opportunity to win the league. (We have) identical records and it's two clubs that competed hard against one another last year. And I'm sure we'll have more of the same (this season)."
-San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher on the battle against Colorado State
The Aztecs have done a fantastic job against opponents with low post threats this season (ex. Arizona and USC) but Iverson is more experienced than the youngsters of the Wildcats and the Rams make a concerted effort to get him the ball unlike the Trojans do with their bigs. SDSU will double the post, turning the big man into a passer but the Rams have other capable players to make plays off the extra pass. I think the questionability of Thames turns the tide in this matchup. Unsure if he plays and if he does how effective will he be? If he comes out in full strength the prediction below would change. Tapley needs to act like his normal "double deuce" self and hit-or-miss Rahon has to stay confident to pick up the offensive slack. Aztecs will also need to do a great job on the boards and not turn the ball over. All that being said Viejas will be rocking and rolling, despite most students not back from winter break, but I don't think it will be enough.
Colorado State 71 San Diego State 67
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