Way-Too-Early Top 25 Roundup: Conditional Love for SDSU

Way-Too-Early Top 25 Roundup: Conditional Love for SDSU

College Basketball Rankings

Way-Too-Early Top 25 Roundup: Conditional Love for SDSU

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Scott Gleeson, USA TODAY; SDSU Rank: #15

Gleeson writes: “Coming off a storybook season in which the Aztecs almost went undefeated, replicating 2019-20 could be a tall task for coach Brian Dutcher. All-America guard Malachi Flynn will have a tough decision to make on whether to return or pursue an NBA future. Perhaps an NCAA tournament-less season could convince him to stay. The key loss is starting big man Yanni Wetzell to graduation.”

Gary Parrish, CBS Sports; SDSU Rank: #16

Parrish writes: “San Diego State was the biggest surprise of this season – evidence being how the Aztecs started 97th at KenPom before finishing sixth. A big reason for that was Malachi Flynn’s breakout season. And assuming the All-American point guard returns for his senior year, San Diego State will again be the team to beat in the Mountain West Conference and a real factor on the national stage too.”

Jon Rothstein, College Hoops Today; SDSU Rank: #16

Rothstein did not write a full team preview for SDSU, but he does lay out the potential starting five and rotation for the Aztecs in 2020-21. Rothstein is still projecting Flynn as the starting point guard, though he notes Flynn could still go through the NBA Draft process.

Jeff Borzello, ESPN; SDSU Rank: #17

Borzello writes: “This ranking will come down to whether Malachi Flynn decides to return to the Aztecs for his senior season. The former Washington State transfer was the catalyst behind San Diego State’s 30-win season and likely 2-seed in the NCAA tournament, and the Aztecs would tumble outside the top 25 if he decided to go pro. If Flynn is back, coach Brian Dutcher should have the pieces to once again win the Mountain West and be nationally relevant. Double-figure scorers Jordan Schakel and Matt Mitchell will be back, and hopefully Nathan Mensah is healthy enough to play a consistent role at center. Freshmen Keith Dinwiddie and Che Evans had some notoriety at the high school level and should find spots in the rotation. But there’s nobody to replace Flynn; he might have one of the most important NBA draft decisions in the country.”

Jeremy Woo, SI.com; SDSU Rank: #19

Woo writes: “The Aztecs are one of the toughest teams to place right now, with Malachi Flynn currently mulling a leap to the NBA. If he’s back, San Diego State will likely rank a bit higher than this. If he leaves, it won’t be a Top 25 team, noting how crucial he was in all facets and with starters Yanni Wetzell and KJ Feagin graduating. They’ll get back Jordan Schakel and Matt Mitchell and hope for better health from center Nathan Mensah, but there won’t be an easy way to replace Flynn, and for now, this is a wait-and-see situation.”

Andy Katz, NCAA.com; SDSU Rank: #20

Katz writes: “The Aztecs are going to defend. And if Malachi Flynn and Matt Mitchell are back the Aztecs won’t have an issue scoring. The pick up of Northridge grad transfer Terrell Gomez, who averaged nearly 20 points a game, should add to the scoring punch. SDSU will be the pick to win the Mountain West.”

Aaron Torres, KY Sports Radio; SDSU Rank: #23

Torres writes: “Key starters KJ Feagin and Yanni Wetzel are gone, so the x-factor will be whether All-American Malachi Flynn returns or not. Had the season played out normally, Flynn would have almost certaintly tested the waters, if not just decided to stay in the draft. Without Flynn, this is still probably the class of the Mountain West, a team which will still return several key pieces off last year’s team.

Matt Mitchell will still be the go-to scorer after averaging over 11 per contest in 2020, and Jordan Schaekel (10 points per game) will still provide deep shooting. Trey Pulliam will take over at point guard and Nathan Mensah will be a shot blocking force down low.”

Other WTE Top 25s that did not rank SDSU:

I talked to a few of these pollsters, and they indicated that they were hesitant to rank SDSU until Flynn’s return is confirmed – and also that they would happily rank the Aztecs immediately thereafter.

Whether they make the preseason Top 25 or not, it seems clear that San Diego State has separated itself out as the clear-cut favorite to win the Mountain West in 2021.

But before the Aztecs get too far ahead of themselves, they might do well to remember that Nevada and Utah State were thought to be head-and-shoulders above the rest of the pack in the past two seasons, respectively. In 2018-19, the Aggies usurped the Wolf Pack. Last season, it was the Aztecs who dethroned Utah State.

So now the question becomes: which school will threaten the Aztecs for MW supremacy in 2020-21?

For now, it’s still way too early to answer that question.

Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.

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