San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Preview: What lies ahead for men’s basketball in the 2024 Big Dance

Key notes and observations for SDSU as Friday’s game against UAB approaches
Chinedu Nwoffiah
San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee takes a shot over Utah State wing Great Osobor in the Semifinals of the 2024 Mountain West Championships in Las Vegas. LeDee was named as an AP third team All American, joining Michael Cage, Kawhi Leonard and Malachi Flynn as the only AP All Americans in SDSU men’s basketball program history.

March Madness has finally arrived, and after a long year’s wait, the No. 5 seed San Diego State Aztecs take on the No. 12 University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers this Friday in the Round of 64 at 10:45 a.m.

In favor of SDSU, last year’s National Final run serves as a reminder of what they are capable of heading into this year’s tournament.

Concerning the Blazers, tournament champion of the American Athletic Conference – a first in program history –  a deep tournament run would put their program on the map.

Led by head coach Brian Dutcher, the Aztecs’ offense relies big time on AP All-American Jaedon LeDee, who averaged over 20 points and over eight rebounds per game. The defense is spearheaded by the backcourt duo of Lamont Butler and Darrion Trammell.

Butler, the two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, averages about 1.5 steals per game, and both him and Trammell are a large reason SDSU holds opponents to just 66.6 points per game, good for rank 38 in the nation.

As for the Blazers, they went 23-11 in their regular season, but locked their spot in the dance thanks to the conference tournament win. Without that, they were not going to be a NCAA tournament team. They had zero Quad 1 wins (the best teams in the country), and two Quad 4 losses (the worst teams in the country).

UAB’s star is Yaxel Lendeborg, averaging a double-double with almost 14 points and over 10 rebounds per game. He was also their conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, so the dynamic between him and Butler is something to note. With Lendeborg being a forward, however, the chances of him being matched on LeDee are high.

Members of the San Diego State bench react during the Aztecs’ 86-70 win over the Utah State Aggies in the 2024 Mountain West Championship Semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. SDSU earned a spot in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for the fourth time in a row in 2024. (Chinedu Nwoffiah)

The Blazers supporting cast is quite large, with three other players – Eric Gaines, Alejandro Vasquez and Efrem Johnson also averaging over 10 points per game.

Captained by head coach Andy Kennedy, the Blazers shoot 45% from the field and 33% from the 3-point line.

UAB also allows opponents on average 75.2 points per game. San Diego State is 13-1 in games where they score 75 or more points (they’re also 22-3 if they score more than 70 points).

According to KenPom, a website dedicated to tracking college basketball analytics, it was revealed that when adjusted for defensive efficiency per 100 possessions, UAB has the third-lowest ranking of all teams in the NCAA Tournament as of March 20.

If SDSU can open the floodgates and start scoring and shooting the ball well, chances are they’re moving on.

What awaits them on the other side of their pod in Spokane, Washington, is a matchup against the winner between No. 4 seed Auburn and No. 13 seed Yale.

Auburn, the Southeastern Conference tournament champion, boasts a 27-7 record, and is undefeated in non-Quad 1 games. They have a NET ranking of five, which takes into account all these wins, losses, advanced metrics and more. For reference, San Diego State is ranked 20 in NET.

Regarding Yale, their story is similar to that of UAB, where they got their bid to the dance through winning the Ivy League tournament championship, not through tough out-of-conference scheduling.

One thing is for certain: this is March. The upsets and miracles are inevitable. Only time will tell who comes out on top.

As Dutcher always says, “Defense travels.”

About the Contributors
Jared Knobloch
Jared Knobloch, Staff Writer
Jared is a Journalism major from San Diego, California. He transferred from San Diego Mesa College, where he was Editor-In-Chief of The Mesa Press. He focuses on sports journalism, and hopes to refine his writing skills while working for the Daily Aztec. His favorite sport to watch is basketball, and other interests include working out, playing video games, and of course, shooting hoops with friends.
Chinedu Nwoffiah, Photographer
Chinedu Nwoffiah (he/him/his) is a fourth-year Communication major specializing in Digital & Social Media Studies. He has always had a passion for sports and storytelling and has been able to enhance his skills throughout his time at The Daily Aztec. Since joining in 2023, he has covered nearly every sport through photography and contributed as a writer, broadcaster, and multimedia specialist for men’s basketball.