A Mountain West team in the Sweet 16 you say??
That’s what the NCAA Tournament delivered to us Saturday. The Mountain West Conference lost 10 straight games in the Big Dance heading into this tournament. This time around it didn’t start well. Nevada lost by a billon to Arizona State in Dayton, Ohio, in the First Four and Utah State forgot how to shoot, going 4-for-24 from three against the worst 3-point defense in the tournament. Then Boise State lost 75-67 to Northwestern in Sacramento, Calif.
But leave it San Diego State to come through for the conference. On Thursday the Aztecs played a red-hot Charleston team that won 31 games. The Aztecs trailed by 20-13 early but came roaring back. The Aztecs held Charleston, who averaged nearly 80 points per game, to just 57. Charleston shot just 26.4% from the field.
It marked coach Dutcher first career NCAA Tournament win. It is a pretty surprising feat considering the Aztecs have built a West Coast power and won three Mountain West championships in the past five seasons.
Fast forward to the second round game against Furman, the Aztecs put on a masterpiece. The Aztecs held another top offense to 52 points. They dominated on the offensive end as well, shooting 50% from the field and accumulating 40 bench points.
It was a Monetezuma revenge type of performance. Something we have wanted to see from the Aztecs all year long. Micah Parrish scored 16 points off the bench, and Darrion Trammell had 13 points and shot 3-5 from three. The Aztecs held their opponent to their lowest scoring out put for the second straight game. With this type of performance the Aztecs have a chance to go farther.
The Aztecs will advance to the Sweet 16 for the third time in school history. This year they are built to go farther. The Aztecs have one of the best defenses left in the Tournament. They go nine deep, and they are finding themselves on the offensive end.
Dutcher won his second tourney game with the win over Furman, but I think he can double that to clinch the Aztecs’ first trip to the Final Four next weekend. It will be that type of performance that can lift the conference up despite all the disappointments that happened recently.