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NCAA Tournament Profile: The San Diego State Aztecs get another shot at March Madness

The Aztecs were the last undefeated last year, and while they didn’t have a similar run in 2021, are still plenty dangerous.

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament- San Diego St vs Utah St Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego State Aztecs had a promising 2019-20 season before it got cut short due to the pandemic. The Aztecs missed their chance at the NCAA Tournament last year but have punched another ticket this season.

Picking up where they left off

The Aztecs were the last undefeated team in the nation last season. They held a 30-2 overall record and a No. 6 ranking before COVID-19 shut down college basketball.

SDSU made it to the 2020 Mountain West Tournament championship game before losing to Utah State on a game-winning three-pointer. They faced the Aggies once again in the 2021 championship game and this time they finished the job.

This year the Aztecs had to return to March without Malachi Flynn, who is now in the NBA. While they didn’t stay undefeated as long, they still found themselves in the national conversation — SDSU is No. 19 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll.

SDSU will enter the Big Dance with a 15-3 record against Mountain West opponents and 23-4 overall.

The Coach

This is Brian Dutcher’s fourth season as the Aztecs’ head coach and he has not missed a conference championship game since he took the job. He is the only head coach in the program to win at least 20 games in each of his first three seasons.

Dutcher is by no means flying under the radar. He was recently named the Mountain West Steve Fisher Coach of the Year for the second straight season.

Not a smooth ride

San Diego State picked up wins against ranked UCLA and Arizona State teams, but they went through some hiccups during conference play. They only lost three Mountain West games but their Colorado State loss in the conference opener was unexpected. This was more or less forgiven after the Rams continued succeeding and ended up having their best start to conference play in school history. The other two losses came at the hands of Utah State.

Strengths

The Aztecs have been known as a defense-focused team for a long time, and this season is no different. SDSU is ranked seventh in scoring defense nationally, only allowing opponents to score 60.7 points per game.

But they can be more than defense. Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel are scoring in double digits. Mitchell was named the Mountain West Player of the Year and the championship game MVP. The Aztecs have depth and can surprise opponents offensively. They are 18th in the nation in three-point shooting percentage at 38.9% and average 8.7 three-pointers per game.