Mountain West Championship: Here’s Why The #5 Aztecs Will Go The Distance
The Aztecs completed a season for the ages at 28-1. The momentum will carry them like a wave in the Mountain West Championship.
2020 is the Year of the Aztec.
Las Vegas, NV- This year, we witnessed the best men’s regular-season basketball performance in Mountain West history. With just a single loss over an entire regular season, San Diego State is not only the best in the conference, but they are arguably a top three team in the NCAA. Yes: top three. In the last week alone Baylor bailed against TCU and the Zags zigged at BYU. The Aztecs won three more.
Although the Runnin’ Rebels beat the Aztecs two weeks ago to the horror of fans, SDSU holds the top record in all of college basketball with one loss.
And with all due respect to UNLV, it’s safe to say San Diego State would be super human to go the entire season without a single off night. Some statisticians would even argue the Aztecs may be better served with a single loss under their belts, rather than entering the NCAA Tournament with none.
Just don’t tell coach Brian Dutcher that.
It’s probable the 2020 Mountain West Player of the Year is Malachi Flynn, who capped this magical season with a 36-point performance in Nevada as he spearheaded the Aztecs snapping Nevada’s 21-game home win streak.
It’s also possible that Brian Dutcher might not just be picked for the 2020 Mountain West Coach of the Year, but also NCAA Coach of the Year. But enough of that: there’s still a lot of basketball to play.
Let’s analyze why the Aztecs will go all the way in the MW Championship.
1. This year’s Aztecs conquered Everything In Their Path
SDSU decisively won the Las Vegas Invitational after taking down heavyweights #11 Creighton and #18 Iowa. Their rout against Creighton was the largest margin of victory (31 points) against the Bluejays in over 600 games.
SDSU defeated #15 BYU in Provo.
SDSU crushed Utah at the Staples Center.
SDSU swept conference favorite Utah State.
SDSU went undefeated in non-conference play.
SDSU became the Mountain West regular season champs with four games to spare- just the fourth team this century to do so.
SDSU completed the Mountain West regular season 17-1.
SDSU achieved most of these milestones with key big Nathan Mensah sidelined due to respiratory illness.
2. The Aztecs have remarkable depth
Four (count them) four players are flirting with 40% accuracy at the perimeter. Malachi Flynn, Jordan Schakel, KJ Feagin and Matt Mitchell can make it rain relentlessly from three-point land. Malachi Flynn has legitimate 30-foot range, and it appears that he is just as effective at deep range three’s as standard range.
Yanni Wetzell has been very reliable getting points in the paint, and cleaning up boards. Aguek Arop is a superb bench player who can score effectively and get boards as well. Nathan Mensah, who has been sidelined can score and clean up boards with incredible efficiency when he is healthy. Matt Mitchell can muscle through players like a linebacker. Malachi Flynn can get points in the paint at will against anybody of any size, anytime.
A number of Aztecs also have excellent mid range, including Trey Pulliam, Adam Seiko, KJ Feagin, Matt Mitchell- and Malachi Flynn.
3. The Aztecs have a bona fide go-to player
Malachi Flynn is a NCAA First Team All American candidate. He is as versatile as a Swiss army knife, and he has thrust many daggers in the hearts of formidable competitors. If you somehow have not managed to see him play (like most east coast sports fans) you’re missing out. Flynn is special.
4. Brian Dutcher might Be The ncaa’s top Coach
If you don’t know Brian Dutcher’s background, you might be surprised. He is the son of Jim Dutcher, long time Minnesota basketball head coach. He was NCAA legend Steve Fisher’s Assistant Coach / Head Coach in Waiting for 27 years. That’s not a typo. He assisted Fisher for nine at Michigan, and then eighteen more at SDSU. Dutcher also recruited the Fab Five, when he was Assistant Coach at Michigan. Brian Dutcher is stepping into his own, and is as cool on the sidelines now as any coach in the NCAA, despite insurmountable pressure the Aztecs have faced this season. Like former Aztec and NBA superstar Kwahi Leonard, Brian Dutcher’s story is still being written and there is more to come.
5. The Aztecs HAVE become a strong offensive team
San Diego State has been one of the most elite defensive teams in NCAA basketball for over a decade. This year, there is an offensive onslaught that is giving the team a new look. If opposing teams- even ones with incredible adjusted offensive efficiency like Iowa- can’t manage to score, and San Diego State can score really, really well: the Aztecs will be unstoppable.
The Aztecs swept every team in the Mountain West except UNLV. They will probably face UNLV in the tournament, and they’re bringing The Show with them. This time around the Aztecs will more than likely best everybody at the Thomas & Mack Center including UNLV, and then go on to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament later this month.
This is The Year Of The Aztec.