| MBB/WBB The 3s could tilt fates in Sweet 16 clash between San Diego State and Alabama

Analysis of San Diego State’s Sweet 16 tangle-in-waiting with No. 1 overall seed Alabama on Friday in Louisville, Ky., hints at a different sort of crimson against the Crimson Tide.

The Aztecs are one of the most physical teams in college basketball. Alabama counters with one of the most towering front lines in the country, averaging more than 6 feet 10 inches up front. Undoubtedly, there will be some blood mixed among the baskets.

Stock up on the gauze and bandages, right?

There might be no bigger factor in the game, though, than what the smaller guys are doing while ringed around the perimeter at the KFC Yum! Center. For the Aztecs, guards Darrion Trammell and Adam Seiko — and their ability to hit 3s — could alter the tide against the Tide.

“When they’re hitting 3s, we’re pretty much unstoppable,” forward Aguek Arop said Tuesday. “We have the inside presence with me, Nate (Mensah), Keshad (Johnson), Jaedon (LeDee). When shots aren’t falling, it does make the game a little grittier.”

The Aztecs can do gritty. They can do ugly. Long-range points from Trammell and Seiko become rocket fuel for a team that sometimes struggles offensively. When shots fall, defenses face a darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don’t dilemma.

Hunker down and try to control the paint against San Diego State’s tanks, a group of active offensive rebounders who create havoc in the shadow of the basket? Stretch and strain to cover shooters, leaving openings inside?

The simple math of it: The Aztecs own an 11-1 record this season when Trammell and Seiko each hit at least one three in the same game. Coach Brian Dutcher chose a simple way to explain the import, as well.

“We need them both to make 3s if we’re going to advance in the tournament,” he said.

The only loss among the 12 games when the duo each hit a 3 was a tight, 66-60 road stumble at NCAA Tournament qualifier Boise State on Feb. 28. Seiko has hit three or more 3s seven times this season, including seven against Utah State and six versus UNLV. Trammell has drained four in a game four times.

Since the regular season ended, the shots have not been falling. Seiko is 2-for-13 (15.4 percent) dating to the Mountain West Tournament.

Trammell is 6-21, or 28.6 percent, for a team averaging a 35-percent clip — ranking just 132nd in the nation.

Alabama struggles even more from 3, at 34.1 percent (No. 172).

“When we’re shooting the ball well, we’re a different team — especially when Darrion’s hitting shots, I’m hitting shots,” Seiko said. “These past few games, these past few weeks, they’ve been really ‘sticky’ on me, not really giving me any open looks.

“So I’m trying to find ways to be aggressive in other areas of the floor.”

Cashing in on prime perimeter looks will be enormous, given the rarity of those against these defenses. San Diego State is No. 6 in the country, allowing opponents to hit just 28.8 percent from 3.

The Crimson Tide? Even better, at 28.2 (No. 3).

Get hot from distance and either team increases the odds of moving on in a major way. Clank and thud across 40 minutes, though, and Elite Eight odds will evaporate.

“Whether that’s those two or Micah (Parrish) or Lamont (Butler) or Matt (Bradley), we have to make some 3s in order to advance,” Dutcher re-emphasized.

“… (Given the defenses), it’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to find out how those are going to come. We have some ideas on how to get some. We’ll see if it works.”

Trammell and Seiko find their 3s in different ways.

“Adam’s more of a catch-shoot player,” Dutcher said. “Darrion has the ball more because he’s a point guard and he’s playing off more ball screens. So he might raise up and shoot if a guy ducks under a ball screen.

“Whereas Adam finds it off a post touch. They kick it out to him or we run a special play for him that we wouldn’t run for Darrion.”

Seiko said digesting film of NCAA wins over College of Charleston and Furman — no 3s on just two attempts — showed he could have taken more of those shots with a quicker release.

Forcing it up from beyond the arc can damage chances, as well. There’s a balance to be struck, decision making that usually grows with experience. Seiko and Trammell are both veterans in their senior season, though Trammell can return and said he will.

Both are capable of scoring in bunches. Both are capable of vanishing. Success as an underdog against Alabama most likely depends on finding the comfortably effective middle.

Just as importantly: The timing of triples could be crucial.

“They love to shoot the 3, especially in transition,” Seiko said of Alabama. “… (And) we can (go) from being a team with a 10-point lead to 20.”

As the national television audience peers at paint Friday, sneak a peek at the footwork around the perimeter, guards rubbing off screens, would-be shooters fighting for a smidgen of space to let it fly.

Sometimes, the biggest games with the biggest players are determined in the smallest of ways.

#1 in 3 point attempts (1093). #4 in APG (29.5)

1 Cornell 28 300 851 30.4
2 Chattanooga 35 398 1057 30.2
3 Col. of Charleston 35 348 1051 30.0
4 Alabama 37 366 1093 29.5
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