UW vs. San Diego St. hoops Q&A

Here is my question-and-answer session with Mark Zeigler, who covers San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune, about Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tip off is at 8 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

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Mark Zeigler

Mark Zeigler

The Aztecs were picked to win the league in the preseason and they’ve shown why. Has this team played and performed like you thought? If not, what has been different?

I think they are now. They certainly weren’t in November and December, when they went 7-6 and lost three at home, including back-to-back games at Viejas Arena for the first time in 11 years. But this team was always going to take longer to coalesce because of its youth, with two freshmen starters and two sophomores in the rotation. If anything, most figured this team would be better offensively and a little worse defensively than last season. In reality, the two teams have been pretty alike — challenged on offense, nails on defense.

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UW-San Diego State men’s basketball Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question and answer session with Mark Zeigler, who covers San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune, on Wednesday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tipoff is at 9 p.m. MT at Viejas Arena in San Diego.

Follow on Twitter: @sdutzeigler

Despite a loss at Boise State Sunday, San Diego State is tied for first in the Mountain West and currently hold the tiebreaker with Wyoming. Are the Aztecs the best team in the MW in your opinion?

I still think so. I’m not saying they’re a great team by any stretch, just the least mediocre team in an increasingly mediocre league. If they play defense like they can and make a

Mark Zeigler

Mark Zeigler

few shots, they’re very good (ask Utah State). If they play defense like they can and shoot like they usually do (poorly), they just scrape by. If they don’t play elite defense and don’t make shots, they lose 61-46 at Boise State. The one advantage they have over the rest of the field is the schedule, with Wyoming, Colorado State and Boise State all at home down the stretch, plus games against San Jose State and Nevada. I think they get to 14 wins, which should be enough for at least a share of the title if not outright.

 

We know the Aztecs are one of the best defensive teams in the nation, and that they often struggle to shoot the ball. But why do they struggle to shoot the ball? is it shot selection, is it mental? What are your thoughts on that?

They had a stretch where it seemed like every player they recruited was categorized as “athletic wing, can’t shoot.” That is definitely part of it. Not having Dwayne Polee II hurts, since he was their best perimeter threat at the end of last season (making more than 50 percent of his 3s over the final month). Freshman Trey Kell was billed as having one of the best perimeter strokes in the prep class of 2014, and so far that hasn’t materialized. Matt Shrigley has been streaky. The shots they get aren’t horrible, since teams generally sag and clog the paint, almost daring them to fire away. But they also have shown the capacity to make them in bunches (ask Air Force), and there was a recent four-game stretch where they ranked in the Top 10 nationally in 3-point field-goal percentage.

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UW-San Diego State men’s hoops Q&A

WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Mark Zeigler, who covers San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune, for Wednesday’s game with the 25th-ranked University of Wyoming. Tip-off is at 9 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @sduzeigler

What is the latest on the condition of senior forward Dwayne Polee II after collapsing during a game earlier this season, and how has his absence impacted the Aztecs?

Mark Zeigler

Mark Zeigler

Polee is at nearly every practice, sitting on the sideline and watching. Coach Steve Fisher put it like this: “He’s still in that medical maze.” He’s seen an array of specialists, and Fisher said it will be at least another five to seven days before they sit down and aggregate all the test results and medical opinions. I still think it’s as much an if as when proposition on his return, but the earliest we’d probably see him in uniform, you’d think, would be several more weeks.

 

Has anyone stepped up in your opinion with Polee out, or who do you think needs to moving forward?

It’s probably too early to say, but Matt Shrigley has been moved into the starting lineup (in place of freshman Trey Kell) and played well against New Mexico, showing he can do more than just sit on the perimeter and make 3s. Winston Shepard also had probably the best game of his career against New Mexico, certainly the best half of his career (16 points, 7 of 8 shooting, six rebounds). Polee was not playing particularly well when he went down, and Fisher had moved him out of the starting lineup. But without him, the bench is incredibly inexperienced (only 3.2 points per game from last season) and the Aztecs lose their most athletic player. He also was the top of the 1-3-1 zone defense that was so instrumental in winning the regular-season Mountain West title last season.

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UW-San Diego State Q&A

I asked Mark Zeigler, who covers San Diego State men’s basketball for the San Diego Union-Tribune, five questions about Tuesday’s game with Wyoming.

After losing so much talent of last season’s team, how has San Diego State been able to simply reload? It’s a combination of rebuilding and reloading. They lost four starters and 72 percent of their offense, but they’ve replaced that with a mix of returning players and newcomers. Xavier Thames and Garrett Green are both transfers, and Chase Tapley, James Rahon and Tim Shelton are returnees. Tapley and Rahon played big minutes last season, but Shelton was limited to about 10 minutes per game by injuries. Having him healthy is like adding a new player. The key thing, though, is that everyone around last year, including the transfers sitting out, was infused with the culture of winning from a 34-3 season. And that, more than anything, seems to have rubbed off. One other thing, and I wrote about this Saturday, is that this is Fisher’s best “film team,” a really cerebral group that is really engaged and attentive during scout and film sessions. Here’s a link, in case anybody is interested: http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2012/jan/20/sdsus-secret-weapon/

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