Zeigler discussed San Diego State's makeup in Part I of our interview, and today he breaks down their personnel.
San Diego State starts four guards and a post player. Has that always been the case and do they allow them to play with a lot of freedom?
They haven't changed their offense too much in what they have done. Early in the year they started a 6'11 kid, but once they got into league play they moved Jamaal Franklin into the lineup who is 6-foot-5.
They start three guards, and with Franklin in the lineup he is another guard. They have one big who is Tim Shelton, and he's not that big... he's listed at 6'7 but he is probably closer to 6'6.
They play a lot more small ball than ever in the past, but it has worked for them. However, on the bench, and they aren't real deep, they have a 6'11 guy and a 6'9 kid with a 7'3 wingspan who plays like he is 6'11. So they have some size they can bring off the bench in certain situations.
One player who sticks out is James Rahon. He seems to be a prolific 3-point shooter, a lot like NC State's Scott Wood. How do they use Rahon? Do they run him off screen or is he a floor-spacer who spots up waiting for dribble-drive kickouts?
They use him both ways. He came in as a shooter from Santa Clara and was a shooter last year, but a couple of days before the first game he stepped on a foot in practice and broke a bone in the bottom of his foot. He has struggled ever since. He had it going for a while, but the last couple of weeks he's lost it. Rahon was 0-for-8 against New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference final.
So he initially was a shooter they would run off screens a couple of sets but mostly they space him as a shooter because they like to run a lot of high ball screens with him in the corner.
He has become less of an offensive weapon, but at the same time a really good defensive player. He wasn't known at all for his defense, but he has become their stopper. He normally guards the opposition's best perimeter shooter because he's a shooter himself and knows how to defend one. He's very good at running off screens, around screens, and closing out. He has become valuable in that way and offensively he hasn't been a factor lately. It's one of their big concerns because he does play a lot of minutes.
Can you talk about the emergence of Jamaal Franklin?
He didn't start until the middle of year and is now the league MVP.
The players told me coming out of the summer he was the most improved player, and a lot of people expected him to emerge this year. He just didn't start because of their lack of size, and he had some off-the-court issues that forced him to miss three games early on.
They made the lineup change until league play because they didn't have to worry about size so much so they stuck him in there. I think they thought he would be good and they needed him, but it's all come so fast. He went from being a guy who had just started his first game to the player of the year in the conference.
No one will play harder than him. He's just relentless. He drives and is always coming at you. He takes some bad shots and makes bad decisions... he led the league in turnovers, but was still the league's best player. He only knows one speed and that is fast, furious and frenetic.
Coach Gottfried has already stated that he would start with C.J. Leslie on Franklin. Based on what you know of Leslie, how do you see that matchup playing out?
It's going to be interesting on both ends. I think if Leslie tries to post him up Jamaal will have to front him because if he plays behind him Leslie will probably shoot right over him or go around him. If he fronts Leslie, Franklin is long and can jump so it will be tough to enter the ball.
He'll start on Leslie and if he can't handle him then they will bring in Shelton, Green, or Stephens to guard him.
However, on the other end Jamaal will go out on the perimeter and drive him. What happened in the New Mexico loss is it was a title game and the refs swallowed their whistles. Franklin is very good at driving to the hoop and drawing contact. It's going to be interesting to see how the refs call the game. If they call it tight Leslie could get foul trouble.
It looks like they both are emotional players from what I can tell.
What can you tell me about their other two guards, Xavier Thames and Chase Tapley?
Thames is a transfer from Washington State, and he sat out last year. He didn't get to play point guard at Washington State and transferred after his freshman season. I thought he was maybe their best player early in the season. He's really good defensively and lethal coming off ball screens. He is the best player in the league coming off ball screens, and they run a lot of those.
He strained his MCL in December and came back for league play but didn't have his conditioning. He tweaked it again, and he is not the player he was. He's not a great shooter, but when his mid-range shot is on he's deadly.
Tapley has started for three years, and he is the lone returning starter. But he was the fifth guy last year and didn't get a lot of touches or chances to create his own shot. In the early part of the year he was their go-to guy. He was shooting 50% from the field before Franklin emerged. He cooled off a lot during league play though and didn't play really well until the conference tournament that was held on UNLV's floor. He has always played well in that gym so some wonder if he has his shot back or he just plays well in that gym.
They need him to get going. He has good range, a quick release, and he is very good at attacking the basket. With a bigger player on him they will have to worry about his driving ability.
How is San Diego State's bench?
They aren't really deep. They bring off the bench three guys, a point guard and two bigs... that's it.
When they do go to bench do they go more traditional with their lineup or try to stay with four guards?
They will try to stay with four guards by taking out Shelton for a big, and they normally don't play the bench guys together.
Garrett Green is 6'11 and he played at LSU so he has played in big games... he has experience. He is really good playing positional defense.
Deshawn Stephens is the opposite. This is just his third year of organized ball, he was cut from his hgih school team as a senior, went to junior college, had a growth spurt and improved. He has really long arms but is raw. Athletically, he is probably good enough to guard C.J., but we'll see how he can handle the rest of the stuff.
Finally, how do you see this game playing out?
I think NC State is going to try and cram it inside even more than they normally do... just pound, pound, and pound, get them in foul trouble. They probably want to get easy buckets and exploit matchup problems.
San Diego State will obviously try to attack on the other end with their quickness. I think the officials will have a big part on it. If they call it tight, who will get in foul trouble because both teams aren't deep?
The longer the game is close I think it favors San Diego State because of their experience in late-game situations... I think they are as good as anybody in that regard. They won two games on the last shot this year and always seem to come up with big stops... they've done that.
I still think NC State, if they can get ahead early they would probably have a much easier time and likely get the win.