UP ON MONTEZUMA MESA
Key Players: Brandon Heath (left) is an explosive shooting guard who is as dangerous on the perimeter as he is on dribble drive. A major defensive test for Cal's backcourt - we may feature Ayinde at the two since State is so quick with Heath and Richie Williams.
Inside, SDSU is led by Mohamed Abukar (14.3 ppg), a long and very athletic power forward. I assume Hardin will draw this assignment, as I can't imagine that Anderson can keep up. DeVon must stay out of foul trouble for Cal to be effective (or better yet, get Abukar into foul trouble on either end of the court).
Other starters include sophomore SF Kyle Spain, who plays much bigger than 6'5", especially on the offensive boards. Sophomore guard/forward Lorrenzo Wade is a Louisville transfer with lots of athletic ability, but lacks polish in his game. Williams is a returning starter at the point - small (5'9") but very quick and great in transition.
Bench: Chris Lamb is a 6'10" big body who Fisher may start to lean on Hardin. Brett Hoerner could also eat up a couple of fouls. Jon Pastorek, a 6'8" true freshman from Anaheim Canyon HS, is the only other Aztec to play in each of the team's first four games. Jerome Habel, who was supposed to add depth up front, has been indefinitely suspended by Fisher for violating team rules.
Philosophy: The Aztecs love to run - Heath is among the nation's best at the stop-and-pop off the break. They can struggle in the half court set, and I'm sure Ben will try to take the air out of the basketball as much as possible. In the half court, look for Fisher to take advantage of Cal's lack of depth and pound the ball inside. We'll find out whether Ryan Anderson can play defense.
Prediction: This is a great early-season test for the Bears, but I'm afraid we won't pass it with flying colors. We just don't have enough able bodies to compete with an Aztec team full of big, athletic players who can score inside. The best hope for Cal is to slow the game down and try to get Abukar in foul trouble. That's a tall order away from home.
SDSU 70 California 67