Why San Diego State Should Win The Tournament
The Aztecs are simply too talented.
The San Diego State Aztecs will play Utah State in the title game-again.
What Happens in Vegas stays in Vegas
The Mountain West Conference tournament is always exciting, regardless of how good the teams are as a whole, and this year has proved no different.
For example, Wyoming dropped 111 points in a play-in game against San Jose State on Wednesday to earn a date with San Diego State. It seemed certain that the Cowboys wouldn’t stand a chance against the Aztecs, even dropping an unbelievable triple-digit figure.
Then again, it’s March, and the Cowboys fought tooth and nail to the final buzzer before Matt Mitchell sealed the deal with four clutch free throws to give the Aztecs a 69-66 victory in a game that had all Aztecs fans stressing and losing hair.
Fast forward a little more than 24 hours and the Aztecs were tasked with facing a Nevada team that topped Boise State in the first round of the MWC tournament.
As it turns out, the Aztecs took care of business on Friday night by defeating the Wolfpack, 77-70, to earn a trip back to the MWC title game, and with revenge on their minds. Mitchell dropped 24 points and eight boards as fellow senior Jordan Schakel piled on 15 points with nine boards.
— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) March 13, 2021
Grant Sherfield, who had 26 against the Broncos on Thursday night, followed suit with a 25-point outing with five boards and six dimes against the Aztecs.
However, too little too late and San Diego State was simply too much for Nevada to handle.
The Aztecs were a near-lock for a number one seed in the Big Dance before losing to Utah State on a clutch shot by Sam Merrill in the MWC title game last year- a loss that still stings to this very day. (Aztecs fans, don’t watch the video.)
happy sam merrill day, to those who observe pic.twitter.com/ik3zPFqGyi
— taylor griffin (@griffdunk) March 7, 2021
The taste is still in their mouths and Brian Dutcher’s squad wants nothing more than to be both regular season and tournament champions in the conference as they aim to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
The Aztecs know they will have their hands full and will be ready for the game Saturday night. It certainly helps that they are a lock for the tournament, with CBS’s Jerry Palm projecting them as a 9-seed and ESPN’s Joe Lunardi pegging them as a 7-seed before the tournament started.
Nonetheless, the Aztecs want to cut down the nets in Vegas and also would like to extend their winning streak even further. The Aztecs from Montezuma Mesa have now won 13 games in a row and aren’t slowing down.
The Title Game
Their opponent will be the Utah State Aggies, once again for the third straight year.
Hopefully this time will be different, especially with the way both Schakel and Mitchell have been playing recently. Terrell Gomez came through in the clutch against Wyoming and was arguably the best player on the floor.
Trey Pulliam is always consistent, and, to be quite frank, not many coaches in the country can best Coach Dutcher and this staff when it comes down to it.
While Dutcher has been pegged to the soon-to-be-vacant Minnesota job, his focus is on Aztecs basketball and winning games in March.
They have lost SIX games since the start of last season, and if it weren’t for Mitchell’s injury, they might have found a way to top Utah State as well.
All that’s in the past and the Aztecs are doing all they can to make a successful run in the NCAA Tournament.
The MWC title game is always a tough battle and this one will be no different, even more so considering that Utah State has beaten the Aztecs twice this season already.
Also, as mentioned earlier, the Sam Merrill game-winner has left a terrible taste in the mouths of the Aztecs, and beating the Aggies, in Las Vegas, with everything on the line, would be monumental.
Neemis Queta won MWC player of the year honors (Mitchell won the same award from the coaches) and he dropped 18 points with 14 boards against Colorado State on Friday night and will give the Aztecs headaches.
Justin Bean is another tough player on the Aggies and he scored 13 points and 11 boards against the Rams to send the Aggies back to the conference title game.
Nonetheless, the talented duo of Mitchell and Schakel, the sharp play of Gomez and Pulliam, and the stout defense of Nathan Mensah- who will have the tough task of guarding Queta- should be enough for the Aztecs to cut down the nets in Vegas.
Oh, and they have won 13 straight and will want nothing more than to avenge that loss against Utah State from last season and the two from earlier this season.
Buckle up, it’s going to be a showdown on Saturday afternoon as the Aztecs and Aggies meet for the third consecutive time in the MWC title game.