Game location: Marriott Center, Provo, UT
Game time/channel: 7:00pm MT; ESPN+
Spread: BYU -2.5
Most Recent Matchup: November 11, 2022 — SDSU 82, BYU 75
The 17th-ranked San Diego State Aztecs return to the Marriott Center Friday night fresh off an appearance in the national championship game last year. BYU fought hard last season as big underdogs on the road, taking a 4-point lead into halftime, but SDSU pulled away late to come away with the win. BYU shot 9-26 from three and held the Aztecs to just four made threes, but BYU lost the turnover battle 20-10.
The Aztecs return two starters from last year’s team, losing leading scorer Matt Bradley, defensive anchor Nate Mensah, and four-year player Keshad Johnson to Arizona. Big man Jaedon LeDee carved up BYU for 23 points last year and guard Darrion Trammell had 21 points; both players return this year as seniors. Trammell’s health is something to monitor. He missed Monday’s opener with shoulder injury and is questionable for tonight. He’s practiced this week, so we’ll see if SDSU rolls him out there.
SDSU Players to Watch
Jaedon LeDee, Forward/Center — LeDee was SDSU’s sixth man last year, averaging 7.9 points and 5.3 boards in a reserve role. The sixth-year senior may be the Aztecs go-to guy after putting up 27 points in the season opener versus Cal State Fullerton. BYU had no answer for the 6-foot-9, 240 pounds big man who is a load on the post. Expect a combination of Fouss, Noah Waterman, Aly Khalifa, and Atiki to cycle guarding LeDee.
Lamont Butler, Guard — The 6-foot-2 guard was one of five players named to the Preseason All-MWC team. Butler’s numbers don’t jump off the page — he averaged 8.8 points and 3.2 assists on 35% shooting from three — but the senior is arguably the most important player on the team. Butler was a vital part of their NCAA tournament run, including hitting the game-winning shot in the Final Four that sent SDSU to the title game.
Darrion Trammell, Guard — If healthy, Trammell is SDSU’s best backcourt scorer. At 5-foot-10 him and Butler form a small backcourt duo, but both are quick and disruptive on the defensive end. Trammell averaged 10 points last season and can get points in a hurry when he gets hot. BYU will need to make Trammell an inefficient scorer — last season he shot 36% from the field and 31% from three.
Reese Waters, Guard/Wing — The reigning Pac-12 sixth man of the year averaged 10 points last season for USC. Waters was a big pickup for SDSU and scored 15 points in the opener. Waters shot just 29.6% from thee last year, but is a big body that can get to the rim.
How BYU Can Win
The three ball is going to be a huge focus for BYU all year, but I want to see BYU limit turnovers. The Aztecs always guard the three ball well, so BYU can win with an inefficient night from three if they limit turnovers. Missed shots are always better than turnovers because they give you the chance for offensive rebounds. If BYU is inefficient from three and turns the ball over, that is a recipe for an almost guaranteed loss.
I think this could be the first real chance Aly Khalifa can make a noticeable difference. SDSU usually likes to play at a slower tempo, meaning BYU will need to be disciplined in its halfcourt sets. Those are the types of games Khalifa needs to flourish — his style isn’t built for run and gun, it’s made for methodical, halfcourt sets where he can set up guys from the top of the key or the low post. Khalifa is arguably the best passing big man in the country, and he if he can have 4-6 halfcourt plays where he sets up guys for easy buckets, that could be the difference in what should be a close game.
San Diego is a good team, but I think they are ranked a little high at 17. I definitely see them as a tournament team, but one that is more in the 9-11 range, not a 5-6 seed. I think BYU’s continuity, better shooting, and homecourt advantage barely outweigh SDSU’s athleticism advantage in this early season matchup.
Prediction: BYU 71, SDSU 69