The Aztecs finished as one of the hottest, if not the hottest team in the Mountain West. They finished the regular season on a six game winning streak and earned themselves the five seed in the Mountain West Tournament. They face off against the fourth seeded Fresno State Bulldogs on Thursday in the second round of the tournament and will need to win three games in three days to make the NCAA Tournament.
We brought in our friend Aztec Breakdown (@aztecbreakdown) to use his high level analytical skills and help us find some positive trends that bode well for the Aztecs in the tournament. He delved deep into the numbers and found tons of stats that will be key components to an Aztec run in the Mountain West Tournament.
Looking at the Synergy numbers on offense not much can be said, as the Aztecs numbers are pretty average. The lone bright spot is that the Aztecs are second best in the conference at not turning the ball over.
Next we look at the KenPom numbers, which adjust for the level of competition, and we find that the numbers are much better. According to KenPom, the Aztecs are the third best offense in the Mountain West. Also they have the best offensive rebounding percentage in the conference, which is obviously huge when generating multiple point scoring opportunities.
Aztec Breakdown also has been charting 10-game rolling averages and found some great information. Over the last ten games the Aztecs have been shooting the ball at a 52.27% clip from two-point range. That is an improvement over the first ten games when they shot 49.87% against a pretty weak nonconference schedule. The last couple of games the Aztecs have been slipping in their three-point shooting, however their rolling average of their last ten is still 35.59%. In contrast at the beginning of the year the Aztecs shot the three-ball at a 31.36% rate over the first ten games. When looking at some of the favorites to win the Mountain West Tournament (Boise State, Nevada, and New Mexico) Aztecs Breakdown found that by looking at per 100 possession point differential the Aztecs were third, a point behind Boise State and twice as much differential as New Mexico. Finally in a close game the Aztecs could do well as four out of the five starters are shooting 72% or better from the free throw line over the last ten games.
When looking at individuals some of the supporting pieces are shining. Trey Kell is shooting the best, from inside the arc, he has over the last ten games (45.24%), while Jeremy Hemsley is shooting 61.76% over his last ten games from two-point range. Over the last ten games from behind the three-point stripe Devin Watson is shooting 41.67%, Max Montana is shooting 39.53%, Matt Mitchell is shooting 38.46%, and Jordan Schakel is shooting 37.93%.
On defense the Aztecs are much improved from the beginning of the season. According to Synergy the San Diego State defense is the best in points per possession in the Mountain West. They foul other teams the second least in the conference and their adjusted field goal percentage is third in the conference.
KenPom is more of the same as the Aztecs rank second in overall defense. In no measured, defensive category are they lower than fourth.
Looking at defensive averages over the last ten games the Aztecs are playing some lockdown defense, especially behind the arc. In that span the Aztecs are holding teams to 31.36% from the three-point line, which is equal to the 330th (out of 351) team in the nation.
We asked Aztec Breakdown what these numbers meant to him and this is how he broke it down: “Here's my takeaways. The defense is peaking at the right time. It's at the best it's been since conference play started. The offense has been slipping, but looking at the point differentials, this team has played better when the defense was locked in. The best offensive stretches were filled with losses. I personally like the offensive rebounding numbers too, but that's kind of a personal taste thing.”
Looking at the numbers I have to agree. The defense has been a catalyst during this win streak and people have noticed. Fans have been commenting how the defense has been on point and the numbers support it. Should the Aztecs continue playing defensively sound then they have a real opportunity to win the Mountain West automatic bid.
Huge shout out to Aztec Breakdown (@aztecsbreakdown) for the help with the stats for this article. Make sure you follow him on Twitter for some great information.