Coach Dutcher Got The Aztecs Back To The NCAA Tournament In Year One
Was Coach Dutcher’s first year a success?
We look back at year one of the Dutcher era and look towards the offseason.
This Aztecs Men’s Basketball season was a roller coaster in its first under coach Brian Dutcher. From the secret scrimmage win over Southern California to the loss in the NCAA Tournament to Houston, the season had twists and turns that made it a wild ride, even for a die hard such as myself.
San Diego State started the season on a high as reports came out that it dominated Southern California in the secret scrimmage. However everything came to a screeching halt as the team floundered badly in Tempe versus Arizona State. A win over Georgia in the Wooden Classic brought hope again, however it was short lived as the Aztecs lost to Washington State in the finals. The loss to California was damaging, but was inexplicably followed by a victory over Gonzaga.
The conference season was more of the same. San Diego State was expected to finish second in the league behind Nevada. They started 5-7 in conference and were fighting to just avoid the first round and about this time it seemed all was lost. From there the Aztecs won the next six games and positioned themselves as the five seed for the Mountain West Tournament.
The run continued in the Mountain West Tournament as the Aztecs beat Fresno State, Nevada, and then New Mexico en route to clinching an NCAA Tournament berth. San Diego State finished the season with nine straight wins to change the narrative on the season. San Diego State’s run ended in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with a two-point loss to Houston.
Before the season there was tempered optimism that the team could go back to the NCAA Tournament, however, with the team trending downward in the final standings over the last two years fans were skeptical. Making it back to the Big Dance has helped the program hopefully trend in the right direction and most fans would likely say that the season was a success.
Looking ahead to the offseason tere are many holes that Dutcher needs to fill, from players to coaches. On the players side the San Diego State staff has lost three seniors to graduation: Malik Pope, Kameron Rooks, and Trey Kell. Montaque Gill-Caesar transferred midseason and Max Montana opted to go pro and forego his last season of eligibility. Also incoming freshman Jordan Campbell has decommitted, however, he is still considering the Aztecs. On the coaching side Dutcher lost Justin Hutson to Fresno State and Tim Shelton, who is likely following Hutson to the Central Valley. Dutcher has filled one vacancy by hiring Rod Palmer from Long Beach State.
San Diego State hopes to be on an upward swing. They will need to make some moves here and fill some spots, however, it will be vital for them to get Jalen McDaniels back. He is likely the most important player returning to San Diego State. McDaniels is testing the NBA waters and will make a decision in May, but with him the Aztecs become formidable.
Overall the season was a success for Coach Dutcher. After a rough start he righted the ship and got the Aztecs back to the NCAA Tournament. With a lot of change for next season there will be some questions of this team, which will make his job more difficult. However he has done a great job in year one and as he continues to grow as a coach he will get better. A lot of optimism on the Mesa if things falls into place, hiring Palmer was just the first step.