Stephen Vilardo’s MWC Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament Preview

The Aztecs are the first Mountain West program to reach the Sweet 16 since Nevada in 2018

Posted on March 24, 2023

  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

San Diego State has advanced to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.

In winning a pair of games during the event’s opening weekend, the Aztecs became the first Mountain West program to reach the Sweet 16 since Nevada did so in 2018.

At KFC Yum! Center, the Aztecs will meet the tournament’s No. 1 number one overall seed in Alabama.

The Tide roster is full of talent with four McDonald’s All-Americans headlined by 2023 NBA Lottery pick Brandon Miller.

I preview the game here and my pick appears at the bottom.

5-seed San Diego State vs. 1-seed Alabama

Friday, March 24
3:30 pm PT, TBS

Alabama is tall, athletic, and long. The Crimson Tide front line averages over 6-foot-10. San Diego State is an extremely physical team.

The battle down low could be fun to watch, but ultimately may not be the decider in this one.

In fact, it could be the play of Darrion Trammell and Adam Seiko that could have the biggest impact for the Aztecs and their fate.

More specifically, it could be the three-point shooting of those two that plays the biggest role in this one. San Diego State is 11-1 this season when each of them connects on at least one three-pointer.

If the pair can get it going, the inside presence will feed off the energy and prevent the Bama defense from sagging in on the Aztecs.

Matt Bradley obviously is another player who can stretch things for the Aztecs. A 36.6% shooter on threes this season, he has hit a three-pointer in 46 of his last 57 games, but multiple threes in just 22 of his last 49.

Darrion Trammell vs Furman | Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP

To win this game SDSU will need all three to knock down shots. The triple could be big both ways in this one.

Neither team is great from beyond the arc, with SDSU shooting 34.9% on the season, 132nd in the country. Alabama is even worse on the season, connecting on 34.1%, 172nd in the country.

What could make it more crucial if either team gets hot from distance is the fact that both teams are among the best in the nation defending the three-ball.

The Tide are third in the nation at 28.2% against, while the Aztecs are holding opponents to a 28.8% clip, sixth best in the land.

The Crimson Tide lead the nation defensively in non-blocked two-point FG percentage, limiting opponents to 46.2%. Offensively they are shooting 61.1% on those very shot attempts, 16th-best in the country.

This is a spot where Bama will have an edge as the Aztecs rank 194th in the nation, shooting 54.7% on non-blocked twos while they are defending those shots at a rate of 56.2%—247th in the country.

Alabama’s Brandon Miller vs Maryland | ESPN

An inside slugfest will favor the champions of the SEC.

Alabama will turn the ball over and San Diego State gets after it on defense as good as any team in the nation. The Tide are turning the ball over on 18.2% of their possessions this season, 217th in the nation.

Meanwhile, the Aztecs are forcing a turnover on 18.9% of possessions this season, 100th-best in America. To get a win in Louisville on Friday night the Aztecs will need to force miscues to set up easy buckets in transition.

The Aztecs are trying to knock off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever, having lost on their two prior occasions. A win over Alabama would also lead to the Aztecs’ first trip to the Elite Eight.

The Crimson Tide have gotten to that rarified group in the tournament on one other occasion, in 2004, when they advanced as an eight-seed.

Stephen Vilardo’s Game Pick

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