Fantasy College Basketball Game of the Week: New Mexico at San Diego State
I am something of a completist. When I find an author I like, I enjoy reading all of their books, generally in order of publishing. I don't like to start TV series in the middle. I'll wait until the series has legs and then catch up from the beginning on DVD (or just wait until the show gets cancelled). With this mind, when I choose a game to watch for the Fantasy College Basketball Game of the Week, I'd prefer to see the whole thing. I guess I could just choose the earliest games, but then I'd stuck with a bunch of mediocre Big East games. This week, I had to endure an overtime period of Harvard beating Dartmouth before I was able to see the game of my choosing. By the time, NBC Sports flipped over to the Lobos and Aztecs, half of the first half was gone. There must be some sort of remedy for this situation. Maybe NBC Sports could show fewer Ivy League games.
Over the past couple of seasons, there has been some debate on whether the Mountain West has passed the Pac 12 in terms of basketball supremacy west of the Rockies. The Pac 12 has done little to distinguish itself, while programs like San Diego State, New Mexico, UNLV, and BYU (before they left for the West Coast Conference) have been consistently good. It really helps the Aztecs and Lobos that they have kept their coaches for a fairly long time. It has only been five years since Steve Alford left Iowa. New Mexico has averaged 25.2 wins under Alford. Steve Fisher also escaped the Midwest and has been at San Diego State for 13 years. The Aztecs have won 26.2 games in the last five years and moved from a frontcourt-dominated team (with Kawhi Leonard) to a perimeter-oriented squad.
Jamaal Franklin is the fantasy stud on the Aztecs. The 6-5 guard is one of the best rebounders in the country and provides 9.4 rebounds from a guard slot to go along with 17.4 points (for the second straight year). Franklin has cooled off against Mountain West competition, and only had 10 points, seven rebounds, and three assists against the Lobos. Over his last three games, the junior has only made 27.3 percent (12-of-44) of his field goals, but he - like the rest of the Aztecs - plays with relentless energy on both sides of the court. I like that college basketball allows players like Franklin to wear long-sleeve shirts under their uniforms. I've never really understood why the NBA does not allow players to even wear t-shirts under their tanktop uniforms. It worked for Patrick Ewing in college.
Many people complain about low-scoring games like this one, but I am not one of those people. Part of the reason that the Lobos scored a season-low 34 points was due to the Aztec defense, but they also missed plenty of open shots. I enjoy watching a defensive-oriented team as much as I enjoy run-and-gun basketball. I disagree that low scoring games are ugly. Defense takes a great amount of effort and that effort should not be rewarded by media people complaining about the score. The Aztecs were jumping the passing lanes and snagging boards. It was impressive to watch.
It helps keep my interest if the low-scoring games are close, but I have a little game I like to play in blowouts as well. If a team has a 20-point lead in the second half, I like to choose a number of points that the team ahead will need to score in order to secure the win. In this game, I hit the number right on the head. Seven minutes into the second half, the Aztecs held a 43-26 lead and I figured they would need 12 more points to salt away the lead. The game was probably over at halftime, but this number picking game keeps me watching. For a more scientific approach to tell when a college basketball game is over, you can look at Bill James' formula for when a lead is safe.