Good Defense Travels: Back San Diego State at Colorado State

Rainman M.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018 2:50 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018 2:50 PM UTC

Colorado State (8-7) hosts San Diego State (9-4) tonight at 9 ET. The Aztecs are favored by 9.5 points. The Rams are 1-6 ATS on the road, do they have a better chance of covering tonight at home?

San Diego State Aztecs vs Colorado State Rams

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Free NCAAB Pick: San Diego State -7.5Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

The Aztecs, now led by former long-time assistant Brian Dutcher, returns three starters from last season. They hope to avenge their conference tournament loss to the Rams in which they blew a 13-point lead.

Point guard Devin Watson, who transferred from San Francisco 2 years ago, is finally eligible and takes over the point guard position. He leads the team in minutes, points and assists per game. Guards Troy Kell and Jeremy Hemsley rank, like Watson, in the top-400 in assist rate.

Center Malik Pope is the team’s most frequent shot-taker. But his greatest asset is his defense. He ranks 92nd in defensive rebounding percentage, leads the team with 7.1 rebounds per game, a block per game and ranks 365th in steal percentage.

Colorado State lost its two leading scorers and leading rebounder from last season, the Mountain West Player of the Year and first-team All-Mountain West forward.

Guard Prentiss Nixon easily leads the Rams in percentage of shots taken. Despite being asked to take a lot more of the shots this season, he completes 41% from two. And, despite attempting 39 more threes than any of his other teammates, he completes only 35% from three. JD Paige plays a lot of point guard. He leads the Rams in minutes. He is reliable from the free throw line, but doesn’t draw a lot of fouls. He is very vulnerable to turnovers and, like Nixon, is struggling to score efficiently.

Most of the Rams’ points come from inside the arc and the free throw line. Nixon, power forward Che Bob and center Nico Carvacho rank in the top 400 in fouls drawn. Nixon averages 84.8% from the line, but Bob and Carvacho 61% each. Bob and Carvacho also lead the team respectively with 8.1 and 7.3 rebounds per game.

The Verdict

Colorado State has had SDSU’s number lately. But the Aztecs have a different playing style under Dutcher. They like to score quickly on offense especially by achieving baskets in transition. They rank 80th in turnover percentage and 16th in defensive rebounding percentage. Conversely, the Rams rank 226th in percentage of turnovers allowed and 151st in offensive rebounding percentage. The key for bettors is turnovers: in 3 out of their 4 ATS losses, SDSU failed to win the turnover battle. But in 6 of their 8 covers, the Aztecs won this battle. Expect the Aztecs to win this battle behind their ball-secure point guard and their stout defense. The key match-up is between SDSU’s Watson and CSU’s Paige. The latter averages .8 more turnovers per game than Watson.

The Rams lack the tools to exploit the weaknesses in SDSU’s defense. The Aztecs play some zone defense and leave the perimeter relatively open, ranking 291st in proportion of three-pointers allowed. However, the Rams lack the quality to create enough open shots, especially with the turnover-prone Paige against SDSU’s lengthy defense, which ranks 17th in height. The Rams are anyway unable to make enough shots, ranking 315th in three-point shooting percentage, as well as to rebound offensively and protect the basketball.

The match-up and player quality collectively speak for an Aztec cover on our NCAAB Picks.

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