This year’s non-conference schedule is pretty weak, outside of the Maui Invitational. The marquee non-conference games are at California, who is expected to be a bottom half of the standings team in the PAC-12, and at home versus BYU.
In the rest of the non-conference slate, the Aztecs play seven of eight games at home, with the only away game being at Illinois State as part of the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge.
The hard part of the non-conference schedule comes at the Maui Invitational, which boasts its most loaded field ever. San Diego State drew Duke in round one and would play either Auburn or Xavier in round two. The Aztecs will have three opportunities to pick up some quality victories. I think the Aztecs can go 12-1 or 11-2 in the non-conference part of their schedule, which would be fantastic for their conference resume.
The Aztecs have 18 conference games and will come in ranked either second or third in the preseason poll. Nevada will be the heavy favorites to repeat as Mountain West champs, and rightfully so. San Diego State beat the Wolfpack twice last season and should be the biggest threat for the top spot.
New Mexico is the team that will be battling with the Aztecs for that second spot in the league. Ideally, San Diego State will split with both Nevada and New Mexico, and will likely drop a game against another two opponents, such as a Fresno State or UNLV; finishing with a record of 14-4.
The Aztecs could make another run in the Mountain West Tournament on their way to the automatic bid, however, they would like to sew that up beforehand with a strong resume. At 25-6 they might have a tough time, but, should they pick up two wins in Maui and avoid any catastrophic losses elsewhere in their schedule then they would likely be a shoe-in for the NCAA Tournament.
Last season the Aztecs showed they are still a force to be reckoned with and they played extremely well towards the end of the season. It seems like Coach Dutcher has figured out his personal identity and has imparted it to this team. This team should be an improvement on last year’s team and I expect them to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row. San Diego State is trending back up as a program after dipping for a couple of years. This season should show that the Aztecs are on the rise.