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NCAA Game Preview by @RandyDunson: Duke University Blue Devils vs. San Diego State University Aztecs

By March 21, 2015April 20th, 20158 Comments


Game Preview

Duke Blue Devils (30-4] vs. San Diego State University (SDSU) Aztecs (27-8]

Sunday, March 22, 2015 • 2:40 p.m. • CBS • Charlotte, NC • Time Warner Cable Arena

By Randy Dunson

1. Snapshot


Duke (30-4, 15-3) faces San Diego State (27-8, 14-4 MW) Sunday, March 22 at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. Tipoff is set for 2:40 PM with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill, and Tracy Wolfson calling the action for CBS. The Blue Devils were tabbed the No. 1 seed in the South Region. Duke has received a No. 1 seed 13 times, second most in NCAA Tournament history. Duke is 100-34 (.746) all-time in NCAA Tournament play, including an 83-26 (.761) mark under head coach Mike Krzyzewski. Duke is one of three programs with 100 NCAA tourney wins. Duke is 33-6 (.846) in the state of North Carolina in NCAA Tournament play, including an 11-3 (.786) mark in Charlotte. The Blue Devils enter Sunday’s game ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll and No. 5 in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Duke is 76-15 (.835) overall when ranked No. 4 in the AP Poll.

San Diego State University

Having advanced to the NCAA tournament for a sixth consecutive season and the round of 32 for a third straight year, eighth-seeded San Diego State (SDSU) will face top-seeded Duke in a South Regional third-round game in Charlotte, N.C. SDSU is one of nine schools in the country to make the round of 32 in each of the last three NCAA tournaments (2013-14-15). Since 2011, San Diego State has won six NCAA tournament games, which is tied with Duke and Wichita State for 16th nationally. The Aztecs are one of 17 teams in the country to advance to two Sweet 16 appearances in the last four seasons (2011, 2014). Fisher is making his 15th NCAA tournament appearance and eighth with the Aztecs. He owns a 26-13 record (66.7 percent) in the event, claiming the 1989 national championship and advancing to the title game in 1992 and 1993. This is the 10th straight season the Aztecs have advanced to either the NCAA tournament or NIT, the 10th straight year in which they have won at least 20 games and the seventh straight campaign they have won at least 23 games. Since the beginning of the 2010-11 campaign, San Diego State owns a 141-35 record (80.1 percent). That is the sixth-highest winning percentage in the nation during that span. SDSU is on pace to set Division I school records for fewest points allowed (53.5) and lowest opponent field-goal percentage (37.9 percent). The Aztecs already set a Mountain West record for fewest points allowed in conference games (52.7).

2. Last Time Out


In its last outing, Duke posted an 85-56 win over Robert Morris Friday as Quinn Cook (22) and Jahlil Okafor (21) combined for 43 points on 17-of-23 (.739) shooting. Cook knocked down six three-pointers as Duke went 10-of-21 (.476) from behind the arc. Okafor was 9-of-11 (.818) from the field to match the third-best field goal percentage by a Blue Devil in NCAA Tournament history. Tyus Jones added 10 points and seven assists, while Justise Winslow recorded six points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Marshall Plumlee came off the bench to notch his first career double double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Duke recorded an assist on 28 of its 34 made field goals and shot 63.0 percent (34-of-54) from the field in the win. Duke’s 28 assists also set a school NCAA Tournament game record.

San Diego State University

In its last outing, when the horn sounded signaling the end of the first half of their second-round NCAA Tournament game against St. John’s, San Diego State had taken 16 3-point attempts and scored 40 points. Those attempts and points are not unusually high for a single half, but the Aztecs entered Friday’s matchup averaging 16.4 3-point attempts and 61.8 points per full game this season. With things going so well for the Aztecs from beyond the arc, one would think they would continue to light it up from deep in the next 20 minutes. In fact, Dwayne Polee, who spent a year at St. John’s before transferring to SDSU, started the second half just like the first, with a quick 3-pointer that rattled through the net. However, unlike the first half, in which they averaged 1.667 points per possession, the Aztecs stopped shooting from beyond the arc. Moreover, when they stopped shooting from beyond the arc, they essentially reverted to the team that averaged 1.022 points per possession during the regular season. They took just six 3-point attempts in the period, making just two, meaning they scored just six of their 37 second-half points from 3. The Aztecs were not just inconsistent with their shots from beyond the arc. Their top two scorers, Winston Shepard and Aqeel Quinn, combined to shoot 2-for-14. Skylar Spencer, averaging 3.6 points per game, finished with 10 points on 4-for-8 shooting, matching his career high.

3. Head-to-Head

San Diego State and Duke have met once, back on December 29, 2001, in Durham, NC. The Blue Devils won, 92-79, in what was SDSU’s first game broadcast by network television. The non-conference game took place during the 2001-02 season, which was Steve Fisher’s third at San Diego State. When the clock hit triple zeroes, Fisher at SDSU was 26-41 (.388). Since that day, Fisher and the Aztecs have gone 313-143 (.686) and advanced to 12 postseason tournament, including eight NCAA tournaments. Individually, Fisher is 3-7 vs. Duke with nine of the meetings coming while he was at Michigan. Fisher won the first meeting, beating sixth-ranked Duke in overtime in Ann Arbor before dropping six straight. Fisher, however, ended with two straight victories, one at home, and another at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

In terms of a few key offensive and defensive statistical parameters, Duke has the edge in all of the categories except steals per game, which give the Blue Devils a solid statistical edge head-to-head.

Duke2014-15 Regular Season Key Stats ComparisonSan Diego State University
80.7 (+15.4)PPG (Scoring Margin)62.2 (+8.7)
65.3Opponents PPG53.3
57.3Effective FG%47.1
42.7Opponent FG%37.9
38.93PT FG%32.4
32.0Opponent 3PT FG%30.0
37.4 (+6.4)RPG (Rebound Margin)353 (+3.4)
31.0Opponent RPG32.0
11.2 (+1.2)Turnovers Per Game (Margin)11.4 (1.8)
12.4Opponent TOPG13.2

4. Four Factors to Winning

[If you wish to learn more about how the four factors are calculated and implemented, a description can always be found here,]

Duke-SDSU 4Fs

Duke has a the edge over San Diego State University in all factors. The edge in offensive rebounding is 37.4% vs. 35.5%. When it comes to getting to the free throw line, Duke’s edge is 9.8% vs. 36.8%. Duke is shooting the ball more efficiently (eFG%) at 57.3% vs. 47.1% and handling the ball better (16.8% vs. 18.6%).

5. Key Points to Consider

First, a few points regarding both teams’ overall profile at this point:


  • Two main scorers (Cook/Okafor); Jones/Winslow close behind
  • Makes the most of its possessions
  • Does not send teams to the line often

San Diego State University

  • Methodical on offense
  • Unselfish, balanced offense
  • Hard to score against
  • Commits few fouls

Now, a few key points to consider. These may often carry over to future games but keys specific to a current opponent will always be mentioned.

  • Free Throw Shooting (EmphasisonOkafor) [I choose to leave this as a key as it applies for all of Duke’s remaining games intheNCAAT]
    • This has been Duke’s Achilles Tendon at times this year. Unfortunately, Okafor can be a huge detriment here.
    • Okafor will need to prove he can hit at a respectable rate from the line if Duke is to threaten for the national title.
  • Could Be’s – Wanna Be’s?
    • San Diego State Will ShutDownJahlilOkafor in First Half
      • Jahlil Okafor will have trouble finding his post game in the first half as San Diego State will collapse on him, causing double and triple teams when he gets the ball. Look for him to go into halftime with just single digit points and boards.
    • Justise Winslow Will Step Up His Game
      • Justise Winslow is another guy who is looking to raise his draft stock and a solid first half with Okafor struggling will help that. Look for Winslow to be the guy Okafor kicks the ball out to on double teams and go into the half with double figures.
    • Malik Pope Will Have Double-Double Off Bench
      • Malik Pope is one of the NBA’s top prospects, but the young star has yet to have a huge breakout game and still comes off the bench for the Aztecs. He will come off the bench once again, but will record a double double against the Blue Devils, furthering his draft stock.
    • Tyus Jones Will Finish With 10 Assists
      • Tyus Jones is a great facilitator, averaging 5.8 assists on the year, and he will do even better than that in this one, dishing out 10-plus assists in what will be one of his best career games as a Blue Devil.
    • JahlilOkafor’s Second-Half Surge Will Lead Duke
      • Jahlil Okafor will follow up a slow first half with a dominating performance in the second half, scoring 12 points and getting 10 rebounds. He will finish with 21 points and 16 rebounds as he will be the reason Duke avoids being the first No. 1 seed to be bounced from the tourney.

6. Endgame

Duke had an easy time against No. 16 seed Robert Morris on Friday night, winning 85-56. San Diego State, the No. 8 seed, took down a short-handed St. John’s squad 76-64. The storyline in this one is simple: Can San Diego State’s outstanding scoring defense (53.5 PPG allowed), ranked second in the nation, hold down Duke’s third-rated scoring offense (80.7 PPG)? The answer to that question will dictate how this game ends up.

The San Diego State Aztecs (27-8, 14-4 MW) uncharacteristically utilized the three-pointer in their 76-64 victory over the St. John’s Red Storm this past Friday night. The Aztecs shot 40.9% (9-22) from beyond the arc while holding St. John’s to just 17.6% (3-17) from three-point range. Leading the way for San Diego State was J.J. O’Brien who had 18 points, four rebounds, and two assists in the victory. The Aztecs were ranked 27th in the RPI Standings and played the 79th ranked SOS. On the season, San Diego State has been led by Winston Shepard (11.0 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.9 APG) and Aqeel Quinn (10.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG, and 1.6 APG). San Diego State is averaging 61.8 PPG (ranked 300th) on 41.9% shooting (ranked 258th). The Aztecs shoot just 62.9% from the free throw line (ranked 331st) and commit 11.4 turnovers per game (ranked 64th). San Diego State is holding teams to just 53.1 PPG (ranked 2nd) on 37.7% shooting (ranked 5th). The Aztecs commit just 14.3 personal fouls per game (ranked 8th) and have a rebound margin of 3.2 (ranked 73rd).

The Duke Blue Devils (30-4, 15-3 ACC) took advantage of their size a cruised to an 85-56 victory against the NEC Champion Robert Morris Aztecs this past Friday night. The Blue Devils shot an incredible 63.0% from the field and outrebounded the Aztecs by a 31-16 margin. Leading the way for Duke was Quinn Cook who had 22 points, four rebounds, five assists, and three steals in the victory. Duke was ranked fifth in the RPI Standings and played the 11th ranked SOS. On the season, the Blue Devils were led by Jahlil Okafor (17.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, and 1.4 BPG) and Quinn Cook (15.9 PPG, 3..3, 2.8 APG). Duke is averaging 80.6 PPG (ranked 3rd) on 50.2% shooting (ranked 3rd). the Blue Devils average 7.6 three-pointers per game (ranked 58th) and commit 11.2 turnovers per game (ranked 57th). Defensively, Duke is allowing their opponents to average 65.6 PPG (ranked 144th) on 42.9% shooting (ranked 173rd). The Blue Devils pull down 37.33 total RPG (ranked 43rd) and have a rebound margin of 6.2 (ranked 22nd).

San Diego State is one of the best defensive teams in the country and if they can continue to hit the three-pointer like they did against St. John’s, they will have a chance to do some damage in this tournament. Duke is one of the most talented teams in the country and has one of the best players in the country in their big-man, Jahlil Okafor. I think San Diego State and their head coach Steve Fisher will come up with a game plan to slow down the Duke offensive and keep this one a low-scoring affair.

In the end, San Diego State pushes the Blue Devils, but ultimately Duke seals its 28th Sweet 16 appearance with a 73-62 victory.


  • dslaw19says:

    Let’s hope so. This will be a great test for us not only as we go through the rest of the tourney but also as a fantastic tune up for Utah next weekend. If okafor can handle the Aztec team of bigs he surely can handle utahs.

  • Randysays:

    Thanks for the comment. Yeah, every game is tough from here on out. Okafor has played against bigs like this before & handled it well offensively. He’ll need help defense at times though. One thing I failed to mention in the preview is the potential to get a bit soft mentally after a rout like that of RMU.

  • dslaw19says:

    I agree. I even felt like the game versus Robert Morris they came off as uninspired at bits and that bothered me. They’ll get plenty of inspiration today. I hope they watched UNC. And Notre dame. And especially villanova. And realize that no matter how good you are you can be taken to the brink….or even sent home. We got the tools and the talent to win this whole thing. Or….we can get sent back to Durham at anytime. I definitely hope we come out with a stronger mentality and with our feet on the gas.

  • Randysays:

    I’m with you on play during the RMU game. K has mentioned that several times this year. If there’s a coach out there who can prepare a team for NCAA play as well as instill inspiration, it’s K. It’s then up to the players to execute. Just focus & don’t let little mistakes play with their minds, we should be just fine.

  • dslaw19says:

    And tell jah no more unnecessary reverse dunk attempts. 2 points can end the season. Instead of trying that…try working on your FT shooting. I think we will be fine. They are exceptional defensively. And big. But not a very good offensive team at all. We get out and score some points like I know we can do and we will be fine. I just want us to look inspired and amped up.

  • Randysays:

    Yup. Think he heard more from K in the locker room. 🙂 He’s not in the NBA yet. They’re #2 in defense whereas we’re #6 in offense. Should be a bump & grind game. As long as we hit our 3s (unlike UVA today), we’ll offset their defense to a great extent.

  • dslaw19says:

    Well we definitely hit the treys when we had them which wasnt often. Jah took control and got going early and justise was magnificent all over. It’s wishful thinking hoping he stays another year. I hated hearing they were sick. And it’s got to be rough anyway coming all the way across the country to play. Let alone to us in our backyard. Utah will present a different kind of challenge next week but I expect us to be up for the challenge. Justise and matt Jones both will be on comfortable turf. We should make the final 4 and honestly should make the title game now. But we have to want it. Nothing is given. I know the ncaa and cbs both want Duke and kentucky. And I believe it’s in our destiny to bring them down.

  • Randysays:

    I think we played very well. Even though they were big our athleticism won out with Jah holding down his end. Yeah, it was not great that they had been sick but I must say that I didn’t see any evidence of it in those who played & their best player was back. Frankly, I’m not as concerned with Utah as I was with SDSU but you never know. Yup, since the pre-season rankings came out, everyone has been wanting a Duke-KY matchup. It certainly c

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