Mountain West Basketball: Way-Too-Early Top 25 Roundup
Aztecs’ shot at preseason Top 25 hinges on Flynn’s decision
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SDSU is receiving lots of early love, but most of it comes with a caveat.
In the wake of the cancellation of the 2019-20 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many pollsters and pundits have already pivoted toward next season. While much of the offseason coverage relates to the transfer portal, recruiting, and the NBA Draft, there is another springtime trend that has popped its head up a little earlier than usual this year.
The “way-too-early” Top 25 list.
These lists are an amalgamation of residual feelings about teams from the previous season and the hype surrounding the incoming talent for the next campaign. They are necessarily more art than science, as the landscape of college basketball will surely experience a few seismic shifts over the coming months.
Still, these lists provide an interesting glimpse into the current perception of the college basketball world. The question as it pertains to this site, then, is simple:
Where does the Mountain West fit into that picture?
For now, only one team is getting any love in the early polls, and that is San Diego State. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise, as the Aztecs are coming off a 30-2 season in which they had a chance to become a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and were legitimate national title contenders.
But much of the love for the Aztecs is contingent on the return of Malachi Flynn. Even without Flynn, though, Brian Dutcher will be bringing back a squad of talented, battle-tested players who will be itching to replicate the success from this past season.
Without further ado, here’s a roundup of prominent Way-Too-Early Top 25 lists that include the Aztecs, starting with those that have San Diego State ranked highest.
Mark Cooper, TheScore.com; SDSU Rank: #4
Cooper writes: “This spot is contingent on the return of All-American Malachi Flynn (17.6 points, 5.1 assists per game). If he’s back, the Aztecs will be stacked again with Matt Mitchell, Jordan Schakel, and Trey Pulliam returning, plus the addition of Cal State Northridge shooter Terrell Gomez (44.2% from 3-point range).”
John Wilner, The Mercury News; SDSU Rank: #9
Wilner writes: “Will he or won’t he? If point guard Malachi Flynn returns, the Aztecs should keep humming — all the way to a high seed in the NCAAs. If Flynn departs, then a step back (or two) seems likely. Matt Mitchell is best as a complementary scorer, not the first option.”
Rob Dauster, NBC Sports; SDSU Rank: #10
Dauster writes: “The key here is going to be Malachi Flynn. A redshirt junior that transferred into the program from Washington State, Flynn is an All-American at the point that allows Brian Dutcher’s offense to run the way he wants it to run.
Losing Yanni Wetzel will hurt, but Nathan Mensah started over him at the start of the year, and the defense that K.J. Feagin provided will be missed. But with Matt Mitchell back, he and Flynn should be able to provide enough firepower that the system will still run just fine. Remember, the Aztecs are coming off of a season where they lost just two games and will return 3.5 starters, including an All-American, if Flynn is back.”
Kevin Flaherty, 247Sports; SDSU Rank: #11
Flaherty writes: “Malachi Flynn was one of the nation’s best guards this season, piloting the Aztecs to a 30-2 record. He was also just a junior, and he currently sits at No. 42 on ESPN’s list. This ranking is obviously dependent on him coming back to school. Losing Yanni Wetzell hurts; Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel returning is huge. If Nathan Mensah can come back fully from a blood clot in his lungs that cost him most of the season — and there was talk he might make it back for the NCAA Tournament — San Diego State would get back a big man who started the first 12 games of the season.”
Connor Muldowney, FanSided; SDSU Rank: #13
Muldowney writes: “It looked like San Diego State was poised to go undefeated in 2019-20, but the Aztecs had a couple of slip-ups, including in the Mountain West title game. Still, San Diego State should be elite once again, potentially pushing for an unbeaten season in a winnable Mountain West. As long as Malachi Flynn returns, the Aztecs will be one of the best mid-majors in the nation again.”