If have read my articles throughout March, you may have an idea of where I’m going. I had the Aztecs going to the Final Four from the start, I had them beating Bama, and now I’m ultimately going to tell you why they are going to cut down the nets Monday night.
The Aztecs have already made history becoming the first team in program history as well as Mountain West history to make the Final Four. The journey is not over yet. The Aztecs are currently +400 to win it all. Here are few reasons why that is a pretty good proposition.
With an average age of 22.9 years, the Aztecs are by far the oldest team left in the field. They start two fifth-year seniors, two fourth-year seniors and a true junior. The Aztecs also have major experience off the bench.
The nucleus of this team has played together for a long time even though Darrion Trammell and Jaedon LeDee are transfers. The players have unbelievable chemistry together, and they play off each other well.
We saw that come to fruition against a young Alabama team in the Sweet 16. The Aztecs aren’t going to get rattled by other team’s runs. They are mature and physical. When it’s a rock fight in the final two minutes, I trust the Aztecs to have the mental toughness to get through the finish line.
Defense and locking down 3-point line
The Aztecs are the best defensive team at the Final Four. They rank fourth nationally in defensive efficiency and rank second in defending the 3-point line.
Florida Atlantic, UConn, and Miami are all loaded with outside shooters. The Aztecs have the athletes on the wing to make those shooter’s lives miserable. Nathan Mensah, the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging three blocks per game during the Tournament. He is capable of guarding the perimeter when switched onto guards and is elite on cleaning up the glass.
Lamont Butler is one of the better perimeter defenders in the Final Four. We just saw wing Keshad Johnson hold National Freshmen of the Year Brandon Miller to 3-for-19 shooting and Trey Alexander to 4-for-11.
Charleston, Furman and Creighton all had their lowest offensive scoring outputs of the season when they faced San Diego State in the NCAA Tournament. I think that trend is going to continue in Houston.
Trammell is heating up
While San Diego State leading scorer Matt Bradley has struggled on the offensive end, the Aztecs other leading point guard has stepped up.
Trammell was a huge transfer acquisition in the offseason. He averaged over 20 points per game last year at Seattle U.
While his offensive output has been inconsistent over the course of the year, Trammell has elevated his game at the most important time. He scored 21 points in the Sweet 16 win over Alabama.
He is been the Aztecs most efficient one-on-one scorer. He hit the game-winning free throw in the Elite Eight against Creighton and finished with 12 points.
Point guard play is everything at this stage. The Aztecs have their guy in Trammell.
The Aztecs have the most impactful bench this Tournament. The Aztecs go nine deep, and head coach Brian Dutcher implements literal line changes.
One of these line changes may have saved the Aztecs season. After Alabama took a six-point lead thanks to a 17-6 run to start the half, Dutcher’s squad responded by reeling off 12 straight points. Jaedon LeDee, who averages 7.8 points a game, scored nine of his 12 points in the second half.
His presence down low makes a significant impact. He had 13 points and 10 rebounds in 19 minutes in the Mountain West championship game.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament against Charleston, he totally changed the tempo of the game. He brought a physical presence inside that gave Charleston problems.
Micah Parrish is the Aztecs’ second best 3-point shooter, knocking down 36% of his shots from deep. Adam Seiko is a fifth-year senior who provides a veteran presence on the floor.
The Aztecs’ depth allows them to play as if their hair on fire at all times. Opposing coaching staffs have to scout and account for so many different players. The Aztecs depth can really give teams problem. It’s their key to winning a national championship.