It’s been a marquee year for San Diego State University. Not only is alumni Kawhi Leonard building on his case to be the best player in the NBA, but the current crop of talent is proving to be too much to handle for whoever is unlucky enough to face them on the basketball court.
Despite this record, nothing in college basketball is guaranteed, and there are many reasons not to crown the undefeated Aztecs kings quite yet.
San Diego State’s season
What they did do, however, was finally get to experience the play of Malachi Flynn, who redshirted the 2018-19 season after transferring over from Washington State. The team had not made the NCAA Tournament since 2017, Brian Dutcher’s first year as head coach.
As soon as the season started, however, it was clear that something was special about the Aztecs. The team was not just beating opponents in league play, they were dismantling them. 10, 20, 30, and even larger victories were commonplace as they prepared for conference play, and when conference play officially began, the team kept up its winning ways.
Through 26 games, 15 of them against the Mountain West Conference. Flynn is proving to be worth the wait that came with his transfer, averaging almost 17 points per game to go with five assists, four rebounds, and a pair of steals as the team’s fiery point guard. Junior Matt Mitchell is providing backup, giving the team 12 points per game and providing lights out shooting.
From New Zealand’s Yanni Wetzel to Jordan Schakel and Nathan Mensah, the team is getting a balanced effort across the board and making waves across college basketball. Despite this, however, some are concerned about how the team can perform on the big stage.
Aztec fool’s gold?
There is no way to take away from what the Aztecs have done against the competition they are faced with. However, once March Madness is officially a go, even an undefeated Aztecs team would have to take the tournament seriously and realize that the competition will be at another level. The Mountain West Conference, despite some big-name teams, is not a powerhouse this year.
The team has some potentially tough games remaining, such as their match against Nevada on February 29. Even if they win, however, the team will have a cloud hanging over them regarding what kind of teams they have beat throughout the year.
Dutcher, to his credit, has let the guys know that nothing is guaranteed, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune that he wanted the team to go into its homestretch hungry.
“I told them in the locker room, ‘Now we have to get greedy,” Dutcher said (per San Diego Union-Tribune). “We have to try to win them all,” Dutcher said. “Four really hard games to go, but now that we have the title, we have to have another goal. And that’s a perfect season.”
What can San Diego State expect?
Undefeated is undefeated. Even if San Diego loses a game from now until Selection Sunday, they are a virtual shoo-in for the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Nobody expects the team to downplay how impressive it is to go undefeated in a Division I schedule, but they are correct to question whether or not the Aztecs can keep that same energy for the best schools in the nation.
If San Diego is hoisting the trophy at the end of Tournament, all of this will go away. They will be lauded as a Cinderella story from last year to this year, and people will talk about them for years to come. If they lose, however, the team must know that undefeated records are fine and dandy, but there is always another level to go to once March Madness is in play.