San Diego State Aztecs
2017-18 record: 22-11, 11-7 in the Mountain West Conference
Head coach: Brad Dutcher
Tenure at San Diego State: 2nd season
Career coaching record: 22-11
Home court: Viejas Arena
Starters: G Devin Watson, G Jeremy Hemsley, F Matt Mitchell, F Jalen McDaniels, F Nolan Narain
Bench: G Caleb Giordano, F Ed Chang, F Nathan Mensah, F Joel Mensah, G Jordan Schakel
Overview: After surprising the entire Mountain West by winning last year’s conference tournament and earning a spot in the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in nine years, San Diego State is ready to keep that momentum rolling into the 2018-19 season. The Aztec roster displays a relatively even mix of experience and young talent on the roster, a combination that will likely be their key to success this year.
Despite losing consistent scorers Malik Pope and Trey Kell last year, second-year head coach Brian Dutcher has found himself in a good position to develop his underclassmen while being able to count on a core of veterans. Dutcher’s four true freshmen, Aguek Arop, Ed Chang, Nathan Mensah and Joel Mensah, may still be learning the ins and outs of team defensive and offensive sets, but all of these newcomers have the athleticism that will allow them to become major contributors.
The Aztecs’ backcourt will likely be anchored by senior guards Devin Watson and Jeremy Hemsley, with sophomore forwards Jalen McDaniels and Matt Mitchell on the interior, with the remaining spot going to junior Nolan Narain or any of the freshmen forwards. McDaniels, previously a more traditional back-to-the-basket forward, has spent the summer fine-tuning his jump shot and might be a threat from beyond the arc as well as in the key. While it may take the team a little while to find its collective identity, Dutcher and the Aztecs will start their season with an exciting trip to the Maui Invitational and look to expand on last year’s successes.
One thing that needs to go right: San Diego State takes advantage of its size—four players 6-foot-10 or taller—and dominates on the interior, riding its bigs to another NCAA tournament appearance.
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One thing that could go wrong: The loss of two of their top three scorers is too much to overcome as the Aztecs are not able to generate enough offense and are unable to take advantage of strong defense.