The madness of college basketball usually waits until March before kicking into high gear. That hasn’t been the case this season, with the revolving door at the number-one spot.
However, in the midst of this topsy-turvy season, one team has been consistently excellent, and it’s not who you’d expect. Brian Dutcher’s San Diego State Aztecs have rattled off 22 straight wins to open the season entering Saturday night’s game against Utah State on CBS Sports Network. At 22-0, the Aztecs are college basketball’s last remaining undefeated team. In a season of inconsistency from the top teams, what has allowed the fourth-ranked Aztecs to be so, well, consistent? CBS Sports college basketball insider Gary Parrish says that Dutcher’s work in the transfer market has been a huge boon to the team.
“I think Brian Dutcher went out and did something real smart, which is explore the transfer market. Because he’s got three starters, three of his best players, who have never played a minute for San Diego St. Before this season,” said Parrish. “It’s a transfer from Washington St. (Malachi Flynn), a transfer from Santa Clara (KJ Feagin) and a transfer from Vanderbilt (Yanni Wetzell). And those guys brought real experience, in the simplest of terms, older guys to the roster. And they’ve just come together in a pretty remarkable way.”
Flynn and Wetzell lead the team in scoring (16 PPG and 12 PPG respectively), while Feagin is second on the team in assists (3.2 per game) behind only Flynn. The trio has helped the team rate highly by the advanced metrics as well. The Aztecs are the sixth-rated team in KenPom’s efficiency ratings with a top-five defense and a top-15 offense. They play at one of the slowest tempos in the country, but they are extremely efficient at doing so. That performance, combined with their record is the reason Parrish tabs them as the “most surprising story in college basketball.” Going one step further, Parrish believes that there is a real shot they could become the first team since 2015 Kentucky to enter the tournament unblemished.
“They were not projected by most people to even make the NCAA Tournament in the preseason,” said Parrish. “And now they have a chance to be a number-one seed in the NCAA Tournament. I actually won’t be surprised at all if they have a zero in the loss column on selection Sunday,” said Parrish. “It’s a pretty remarkable and surprising story what Brian Dutcher has been able to do with this team this season.”
A feel-good story they may be, and they are well on their way to the tournament. But, with a start like this, Aztecs fans have to be hoping for a little bit more than just a tournament berth. So, is this the kind of season that could see the Aztecs making a deep run into the tournament and possibly cutting down the nets? Parrish says they have to at least be consider a contender.
“The computer numbers suggest that they are a legitimate national title contender. Though they don’t have the typical NBA talent national champions typically have, in this particular year, I don’t know if it’s necessary,” said Parrish. “Everybody has talked a lot about that the best teams in the country aren’t that great or aren’t that reliable. And it is true. There is a lot of data to back that up. But when you’re looking for an explanation as to why, it’s because the talent level in college basketball is really down right now.”
“When I looked at my most recent mock draft, I believe 10 of the 14 lottery picks that I have projected, were at this moment not expected to play in the NCAA Tournament because either their team is not good enough or because they’re playing professionally overseas. Or because they quit their team mid-season like the James Wiseman story at Memphis,” continued Parrish. “So, once we get into the NCAA Tournament, you’re not going to be having to play teams with all of these lottery picks and first-round picks. That sets up beautifully for a school like San Diego State to not only make its first Final Four in history but also possibly win the national championship.”
The Pistons struggle mightily to protect the ball offensively and, against the pressure that Toronto can bring, that is a major weakness that the Raptors can exploit. Toronto’s offense has been middle of the road in an overall sense but, in short, Detroit’s defense hasn’t been good this season and the Raptors also hold an overall advantage on that end of the floor. Why the Pistons can cover
Even so, Toronto isn’t a lock to cover the Raptors vs. Pistons spread. The model has also considered that the Pistons have a rest advantage and the presence of the home fans is never a bad thing. Offensively, Detroit also has strengths, with above-average metrics in offensive rebounding, free-throw creation and overall shooting efficiency.
Defensively, the Pistons are one of the better teams in the NBA in keeping opponents away from the free-throw line and, if that continues, Detroit could have the edge in the numbers game. Andre Drummond, who is averaging 17.2 points and 15.6 rebounds per game this season, could also feast on a weakened Raptors front court, especially when it comes to the glass, where Toronto ranks as below-average on both ends of the floor. How to make Raptors vs. Pistons picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning under on the total, with both Pascal Siakam and Derrick Rose projected to score less than their season averages. The model also says one side of the spread hits in well over 50 percent of simulations.
So who wins Raptors vs. Pistons and which side of the spread hits in well over 50 percent of simulations? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the Pistons vs. Raptors spread you need to jump on Friday, all from the model that has crushed its NBA picks, and find out.
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