Aztecs: Junior guard Jamaal Franklin has been both brilliant and erratic this season. He’s averaging 18.6 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, but also turning the ball over five times per game. Junior guard Xavier Thames and senior guard James Rahon have been steady and reliable. The big question is if senior guard Chase Tapley will play – and be effective – after straining his patellar tendon last week.
Bruins: Shabazz Muhammad is one of the top-rated college freshman and might end up as the top pick in the NBA draft next year. He’s averaging 17 points and five rebounds per game since he became eligible three games into the season. Yet, he’s not even the best freshman on his team right now. 6-foot-5 guard Jordan Adams has the highest points per game, averaging 18.5 points through the first six games.
Aztecs: Redshirt sophomore forward JJ O’Brien and freshman forward Skylar Spencer played well on Sunday against the University of Southern California and its two centers, who both stand taller than 7-feet. O’Brien scored 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while Spencer grabbed 11 rebounds and defended well despite his size disadvantage. The Aztecs will likely have senior forward DeShawn Stephens back after he missed the majority of the USC game with a hip injury suffered early in the first half.
Bruins: Redshirt junior forwards Travis and David Wear are 6-foot-10 twin brothers that combine to average 22 points and 12.8 rebounds per game together. Junior center Joshua Smith left the program on Wednesday, which could play a factor in Saturday’s game. As a result, freshman Tony Parker will likely see his minutes increase. The Aztecs may have trouble matching up with the Bruins’ huge front line.
Aztecs: The game is being played at a neutral site closer to UCLA and in honor of legendary Bruins coach John Wooden. Still, the crowd might favor the Aztecs. SDSU fans traveled en masse to the USC game last Sunday and a similar crowd is expected on Saturday. Experience also favors the Aztecs. SDSU starts two seniors and brings one off the bench, while UCLA has just one senior and its two top scorers are freshmen.
Bruins: UCLA is the most storied program in college basketball history, owning 11 national championships and 17 Final Four appearances. But much of that is ancient history. The Bruin’s last Final Four appearance was in 2008. Since then, the Aztecs have gone to a Sweet 16, while the Bruins haven’t advanced past the round of 32.
Aztecs: Steve Fisher recruits players who can defend and it’s paying off early this season. The Aztecs are averaging 10 steals and 5.8 blocks per game, while the Bruins are averaging just 6.7 steals and 3.7 blocks per game.
Bruins: Ben Howland led UCLA to three consecutive Final Four appearances from 2006-2008 and brought in a top-rated recruiting class this season. His team has struggled though, needing overtime to beat UC Irvine at home and giving up an 18-point second half lead in a loss to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo at home.
Aztecs 78, Bruins 75