BYU vs. San Diego State: Aztecs Look for Revenge in MWC Battle for First Place

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BYU vs. San Diego State: Aztecs Look for Revenge in MWC Battle for First Place
The San Diego State Aztecs look to win their first conference championship since 2006.

When these two teams first met, BYU's Jimmer Fredette stole the show, scoring 43 points to send San Diego State to its first loss of the season and put the Cougars in first place in the Mountain West Conference.

San Diego State has not lost since then, currently standing at 27-1 and 12-1 in the Mountain West, tied with BYU. The winner of this game will take a one-game lead in the conference.

With a BYU win, the Cougars' magic number for the No. 1 seed in the MWC tournament would decrease to one. With a San Diego State win, the Aztec's new magic number would be two.

More importantly, the winner of this game remains a candidate for being one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, while the loser's chances for that accomplishment become extremely slim.

Here is a preview of what each will need to do in order to be successful on Saturday afternoon: 

 

Keys for BYU

There's more to the team than Jimmer

Although Fredette is the face of BYU basketball and the leading scorer in the nation with 27.4 PPG, the senior Cougar is not the only scorer on the team. BYU have three other legitimate scoring options.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
In the first meeting with SDSU, Jackson Emery had six rebounds and four steals.

Jackson Emery is second on the team in scoring with 12.4 PPG. Emery has been playing very strong basketball recently, scoring in double digits in each of his last six games. During those six games, his average is 13.9 PPG.

Brandon Davies is another strong threat for the Cougars. The sophomore from Provo is averaging over 11 PPG this season, and he scored 14 points in the first meeting with San Diego State.

Noah Hartstock is No. 4 on the team in scoring. Hartstock's offense has been streaky this year, but he has had some explosive performances.

 

Make your share of threes

Brigham Young makes 8.4 three-pointers per game. The Cougars have a pair of sharpshooters in Fredette and Emery. Together, they have hit 162 three-pointers. Fredette shoots 41.1 percent, while Emery shoots 37.3 percent.

In the first meeting with San Diego State, no player for BYU other than Fredette hit a three-point shot. This was part of what hindered the Cougars offense in the first half. 

 

Keys for San Diego State

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Field Goal Percentage

San Diego State has difficulty in games when the they struggle from the field. In their one loss of the season to BYU, the Aztecs shot 22-for-62 from the field (35.5 percent). The Aztecs have had some other scares this season.

Against Cal Poly, where the Aztecs only won by six points, they shot 34.8 percent from the field.

When facing UNLV, another game that was decided by six, San Diego State shot 35.8 percent from the field. 

When San Diego State had a close call with the Mountain West's last place team TCU, the Aztecs only shot 39.1 percent from the field. 

 

Balanced scoring

The Aztecs have the advantage of having multiple players that can score. They have three players averaging in double digits, and three more players averaging more than seven points per game. 

In the first meeting with BYU, San Diego State had only two players in double digits. Kawhi Leonard was the only consistent scorer for the Aztecs in the contest. 

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Kawhi Leonard leads the Aztecs with 15.2 PPG and 10.7 RPG.

The Aztecs will need their balanced scoring attack in order to take down BYU on Saturday.

 

Feed off the crowd

This game will have a championship-like atmosphere. Viejas Arena holds nearly 12.5 thousand people, and it will be very, very loud. Just like BYU fed off the Cougar fans one month ago, the Aztecs need to feed off the crowd on Saturday.

 

For both teams

Stay strong on the glass

 San Diego State was in control of rebounding in the first half of last month's meeting. With the Aztecs +5 in rebounding margin at the half, they held a one-point lead. The Aztecs was not as strong on the glass in the second, and their small lead turned into a double digit deficit.  


My pick: Although BYU was the better team in the first meeting, it is so hard to pick against the home team in a game like this. The last time San Diego State lost at home was 19 games ago. However, that most recent loss at home was to BYU on Jan. 23, 2010. 

Despite the fact that BYU proved that it can win at San Diego State last season, in a game where a No. 1 seed, in both the Mountain West and in the NCAA Tournament, and regular season championship could be on the line, the home team will not let the fans leave disappointed.

My line: San Diego State by four

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