Well, that was fun while it lasted.
San Diego State wanted to avenge it’s 2019-20 season by, perhaps, making a run at an unscathed season. The San Diego State Aztecs had just gotten into the Top 25 after their victory at Arizona State. The media had swirled and buzzed with talks of another “Undefeated Map,” and the Aztecs had everybody’s attention.
How Good are the San Diego State Aztecs?
Well, those hopes ended on December 18th, thanks to BYU. The Brigham Young Cougars marched right into Viejas Arena with all their chips on the table. BYU walked out with a 72-62 victory, and it didn’t even seem like it was all that close.
The Aztecs came out flat as ever, something Coach Dutcher eluded to in their previous games this season. Unfortunately for the Aztecs, they couldn’t shoot to save their life.
Well, except for Matt Mitchell. The senior forward exploded with 35 points on 12-17 from the field, including five triples. BYU had no answer for Mitchell, but nobody else followed suit for the Red and Black.
Mitchell had more than HALF of the Aztecs points, and ultimately BYU caught them on a bad shooting day, handing State their first loss of the season.
Anyways, enough of that. The big question is, how good is this San Diego State team? Are they anywhere near as good as they were last season? Can they catapult into the top-10 at any point? Are they even locks to win the Mountain West?
These are all viable questions, so let’s dive in and examine this year’s Montezuma Boys.
2020-21 Aztecs are Deep
The Aztecs lost Malachi Flynn to the NBA and also lost Yoeni Wetzell overseas. Aside from that, the majority of the team has returned, and Dutcher even brought in Terrell Gomez from Cal State Northridge and Joshua Tomaic from Maryland.
Stud freshmen Lamont Butler and Keith Dinwiddie Jr. came to campus, and sophomore Keshad Johnson came ready to play a big role. Let’s not forget Nathan Mensah is healthy again, and Jordan Schakel and Matt Mitchell head into their senior years for the Aztecs.
Defensive stud Aguek Arop is healthy and a mess for opposing teams and Trey Pulliam is in line for huge minutes as the Malachi Flynn replacement.
To say this team is deep is a massive understatement. Coach Dutcher could easily play between 10-12 guys a night, and barring injury, this team has the potential to go a long way.
Watch out for the Aztecs
Jordan Schakel and Trey Pulliam each shot 1-9 against BYU, and that’s a rarity for both of them. Schakel had just led the team in scoring against the Sun Devils in the previous game and was named Player of the Week by Andy Katz.
The Aztecs only scored 20 points in the first half against BYU. That’s not good by any means, but Dutch will certainly get to the drawing board so that doesn’t happen.
The bread and butter for the Aztecs have always been their defense, and this year is no different. They cause fits on defense, with Arop and Mensah two of the best defenders in the entire nation. In fact, before the BYU game, the Aztecs were 19th in the country in Kenpom defensive efficiency metrics.
San Diego State will always rely on their defense, and this year’s team has a plethora of options on offense.
This team has so much talent and when healthy is even deeper than last season’s 30-2 squad. The Mountain West is theirs for the taking, and at this point, nobody comes close to them. Nobody.
Just How Good Can San Diego State Be?
The fact of the matter is this: the Aztecs are really good.
San Diego State took a short trip up the coast to San Luis Obispo to take on a 1-loss St. Mary’s team. The question remained: how would the Aztecs respond to the BYU loss?
The Aztecs responded tremendously and crushed the Gaels 74-49.
San Diego State was up 40-20 at the half, and Coach Dutcher was able to play some of his bench guys for a decent amount of the game. Nathan Mensah was the star of the show, finishing with 18 points, 13 boards, and six rejections. Jordan Schakel had 12 points, Matt Mitchell finished with 10 on just 1-4 from the field, and Terrell Gomez chipped in 13 off the pine.
The Aztecs shot 55 percent from the field and 41 percent from beyond the arc. The defense held St. Mary’s to a 31 percent clip from the field. Of course, anytime a team doubles your score at the half, it’s discouraging.
The San Diego State Aztecs will undoubtedly be back in the Top 25, and with conference play right around the corner, the path to 24-1 is in sight.
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