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Stephen Vilardo’s San Diego State-UConn Sweet 16 Preview

Will the Aztecs be able to match the results from last season’s run against the Huskies?

Posted on March 28, 2024


  By Stephen Vilardo, SuperWest Sports

The Aztecs run through the 2024 NCAA Tournament is starting off eerily similar to their magical run last spring.

As a five seed, they withstood the challenge from the 12 seed in the opener. In the second round get a 20+ point win over the 13 seed and then face the number one overall seed in the Sweet 16 as an overwhelming underdog.

Last year it was Alabama in Louisville as the Aztecs came away with a 71-64 victory. This time around the opponent is Connecticut and the location is Boston.

And it is a rematch of the Championship game played last April. UConn ended the surprising run for SDSU with a 76-59 win in Houston.

Will the Aztecs be able to match the results from last season’s run by reversing the result against the Huskies?

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

5-seed San Diego State vs 1-seed UConn

Thursday, March 28
4:39 pm PT, TBS/truTV
Boston, MA

For starters, UConn is on a run that has only been seen once before, having won eight straight NCAA Tournament games by double figures.

The only team to ever have a run like that was Michigan State in 2000-01 when they had a nine-game run.

The average margin in those eight games has been 22.0 points. Not to mention the fact that this one is in Boston, just a two-hour drive from campus, making this a de facto home game for the New England school.

The Huskies do not have any holes on their roster.

Donovan Clingan is a beast down low. Stephon Castle is an elite defender and likely to be a lottery pick this summer.

Tristan Newton, an All-American, is running the point while Cam Spencer and Alex Karaban can beat you with the three-ball.

But the cupboard is not bare for the Aztecs.

Mary Altaffer/AP
Donovan Clingan vs Northwestern | Mary Altaffer/AP

Jaedon LeDee is averaging 29.0 points and 8.5 rebounds per game in the tournament this season while Lamont Butler has averaged 12.0 points with seven assists and just one turnover so far.

Darrion Trammell is coming off a season-high in scoring with 18 against Yale. If the Aztecs can get numbers from him, they could be in a position to pull off the upset.

LeDee can cause problems for Clingan down low.

The Aztec post player is an All-American himself and is connecting on 66.7% of his FGs this tournament and 88.3% of his foul shots while knocking down all three of his shots from distance.

He can be a physical menace and has the athletic ability to make things happen against the Connecticut big man.

A big key will be limiting UConn’s second chances. The Huskies are 13th in the nation with an offensive rebound rate of 35.2%.

San Diego State is 0-4 this season when LeDee fails to get at least five defensive rebounds (26-6 when he does). If UConn gets a ton of second-chance buckets, it is going to be a very long night for San Diego State.

Ted S. Warren/AP
Jaedon LeDee vs Yale | Ted S. Warren/AP

Both teams will clamp down defensively. UConn limits opponents to just 64.4 points per game on 39.6% from the floor. San Diego State is limiting opponents to 40.9% from the floor.

The Huskies are eighth nationally with a blocked shot rate of 9.5% while the Aztecs are blocking 7.1% of their opponent’s shots.

San Diego State has been tested all season, with nine of their 10 losses this season to NCAA Tournament teams and the other to UNLV.

Since the start of the 2019-20 season, SDSU has the third-best winning percentage in Division I at .802, trailing only Gonzaga and Houston.

The Aztecs have won a lot of games recently in a variety of ways, showing they will not be pushed around by anyone.

UConn has won their last three games, the Big East title game vs Marquette and their first two tournament games, by an average of 24.0 points per game.

The Huskies are just too deep and playing in Boston should give them a huge edge. The Aztecs might keep this one tight for a bit, but the Huskies’ quest for a repeat will continue.


Stephen Vilardo’s Game Picks

Mountain West in 2024 NCAA Tournament


Pick

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 1 UConn
Mar 28, 4:39 PM PT
UConn
This Week 0-0 (0%)
 Overall Record 163-61-0 (73%)



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