Editor-to-editor: SDSU vs. Alabama Sweet 16 Preview

Crimson White basketball reporter, Mathey Gibson, hopped on a call with Daily Aztec sports editors to discuss Friday’s massive matchup and give an inside look at the Alabama basketball team

Editor-to-editor+graphic.+Crimson+White+Sports+x+Daily+Aztec+Sports.+%28left+photo+of+Brandon+Miller+taken+by+David+Gray%2C+Crimson+White+photo+editor%29+%28right+photo+of+Matt+Bradley+taken+by+Noelani+Sapla%2C+Daily+Aztec+photographer%29

Morgan Prickett

Editor-to-editor graphic. Crimson White Sports x Daily Aztec Sports. (left photo of Brandon Miller taken by David Gray, Crimson White photo editor) (right photo of Matt Bradley taken by Noelani Sapla, Daily Aztec photographer)

by Morgan Prickett and Justin Cox

Much of the San Diego community would have never predicted the San Diego State men’s basketball to find themselves in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, better yet in the Sweet 16 against the University of Alabama, the No. 1 school in the country according to the AP Poll.

The No. 5 seed San Diego State Aztecs will take on the No. 1 seed Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday, March 24 in hopes of escaping the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history. The Aztecs are 0-2 in Sweet 16 games so far yet head coach Brian Dutcher feels something different may be brewing this season.

“Now that we’ve settled into the rhythm, and we know what this is about, I think we’ll play better moving forward,” Dutcher said. “And that’s really encouraging moving into the Sweet 16.”

The Daily Aztec Sports Editors Justin Cox and Morgan Prickett caught up with Crimson White men’s basketball reporter Mathey Gibson to preview the highly anticipated Sweet 16 matchup between the underdog Aztecs and the free-flowing Crimson Tide:

What are Alabama’s strengths and weaknesses? 

Gibson: “Strengths: Defense on the interior, they’ve got probably the best,  well, I don’t know if he’s the best but (sophomore Charles) Bediako has been one of the better interior defenders in the country this year. Analytically speaking, EvanMiya.com has him as like the fourth best defender in the entire country. And I think that Bama’s biggest strength is defense. Everyone wants to point to offense but defensively, around the perimeter too, the 3-point defense is stout. Offensively they’ve got so much quickness with the guards (junior) Mark Sears to go on (senior Jahvon) Quinnerly. And then you can feed it to guys like (freshman) Noah Clowny and Bediako in the post if you need to. They have a lot of shotmakers so Bama, they’re very well rounded. Biggest weaknesses: definitely turnovers and they get themselves into foul trouble sometimes.”

In the five losses Alabama has had this year, what are some of the opposing teams’ traits that really caused Alabama some problems?

Gibson: “For the most part, with every team that they’ve lost to you have to have a dominant big that can go against Bediako. So with Gonzaga that was like (senior) Drew Timme, or UConn that was (junior Adama) Sanogo. You typically have to have a big like that. You’ve got to have an offense that wants to play at the same pace Alabama does. So you know, if you’re a team that’s a little bit slower, you’re gonna have to adjust your pace to really be able to run with Alabama. With those losses, they’ve turned the ball over probably 16 or 17 times or more in all those. That’s what’s killed Bama in losses for the most part. They get themselves into foul trouble, Bediako and Cl he can’t stay on the court sometimes and then Brandon Miller will occasionally find himself in trouble. Once you get Miller into foul trouble, then Bama’s got some issues. That’s typically the recipe, you’ve got to get them into foul trouble, you’ve got to, you know, be able to score, you gotta be able to score well like Gonzaga. Usually you’ve got to have a good big man. And another thing I’d add would just be shooters on the perimeter. You’ve got to be able to shoot the ball.”

How has Alabama matched up against the more physical teams this season? 

Gibson: “I think they (struggled) early. They struggled with Michigan State a little bit even though they pulled that out. They struggled with (senior Armando) Bacot with UNC and Sanogo for UConn. That was a big issue but as the season has gone along, they’ve gotten progressively stronger. Like Brandon Miller, the beginning of the year could not finish around the basket, that’s changed a lot. Bediako has gotten stronger, Clowney, he’s gotten a lot stronger. They’ve been able to really, you know, play around the interior well defensively and on offense. They run a good offense through Bediako and Clowney when they have to. With San Diego State, they’re not as lengthy as Alabama is. In the front court Alabama has the edge but in the backcourt (SDSU) are a little bit longer than Alabama is. Guys like (senior) Matt Bradley could definitely give you know Sears, Quinnerly, Miller trouble, Trammell is really good. So you know I’d say Alabama has a little bit of an edge in terms of the length and maybe a little bit physicality but San Diego State’s got enough to be able to compete without Alabama on that end for sure.

What are your initial predictions and feelings of the game?

Gibson: “I think San Diego State keeps it within three around the half, three or four points. Bama is not a first half team. They haven’t been all year. I think San Diego State’s going to come out with some edge, probably a little more edge now than Bama has just considering everything that’s kind of happened for them this week with the whole Nick Saban and Nate Oats thing. They’ve got a couple of injuries, Miller still has a groin injury. I think San Diego State gives them a really good first half and probably first five-to-six minutes of the second half but this is one of those games where really Bama is going to run away late. Like usual. That’s kind of how these work a lot when Bama is facing either a mid major or team that just isn’t as like, fast as Bama plays, because they run teams just out of the gym at that point because they get so tired, especially for a team like San Diego State that wants to play a little bit slower and, you know, maybe doesn’t necessarily have all the quickness that Alabama has. By that second half your offense and defense is just kind of cooked at that point because you’ve been running full speed, which is what Bama wants to do the entire game.

Undoubtedly Alabama will prove to be a handful for the Aztecs, yet with the momentum the Aztecs are riding and the magic that makes March Madness — you just never know.

 The Aztecs will take on the Crimson Tide on Friday, March 24 at 3:30 p.m. PT. at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky. The game will air live nationally on TBS.