Nestled in the heart of San Diego comes the San Diego State University Aztecs. They reached the Final Four by beating No. 12 seed College of Charleston, No. 13 seed Furman, No. 1 seed Alabama and No. 6 seed Creighton. Here are five things you need to know about the Aztecs.
1. First Time in the Final Four
Like the University of Miami Hurricanes, the Aztecs are heading to the Final Four for the first time in the men's basketball program history. San Diego State as a program has been to 15 NCAA Division I tournaments, with their best prior finish being the Sweet 16, in both 2011 and 2014. Including this year's tournament, they have an overall record of 10-14 and didn't get their first March Madness win until 2011. Head coach Brian Dutcher, who is in his sixth season at the position, is going to the Final Four for the first time as well as the leader of a team. He was an assistant coach for the Michigan Wolverines when they won the national championship in 1989, and then went to back-to-back championships with the Fab Five in 1992 and 1993.
2. Unfinished Business
In the 2019-20 season, the San Diego State Aztecs were one of the most dominant teams in men's college basketball. They finished the season 30-2 — the best winning percentage in their program's history — and spent six straight weeks in the Top 5 of both the AP and coaches polls. They were rated in the Top 15 nationally in both offense and defense, and were likely on their way to being a No. 2 seed in that tournament. It's also likely they would've made a deep run; however the tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Keshad Johnson, Adam Seiko, Nathan Mensah and Aguek Arop were all on that Dutcher-led team that never got a chance to contend for a title many thought they had a chance to win.
3. Grind, Baby, Grind
Slow and steady wins the race for the Aztecs. No one among the teams in the Final Four plays at a slower pace than San Diego State. According to KenPom, they are ranked No. 4 in the nation in defensive efficiency. During this postseason run, they've stepped it up a notch when defending the rim. Since the Mountain West Conference Tournament, which the Aztecs won, they have only given up 56.6 points per game. Teams behind the arc against the Aztecs are abysmal, shooting a measly 17%. That makes San Diego State the second-best 3-point shooting defense in the nation this season. The Aztecs only gave up five 3-pointers combined against Creighton and Alabama.
4. Experience Above All Else
According to KenPom, no other team in the Final Four has more cumulative experience than the Aztecs this season. Of the nine plays who have played at least 500 minutes for San Diego State, seven are seniors. As mentioned before, four of the players were part of what many consider to be the greatest San Diego State team in school history.
5. Darrion Trammell
Darrion Trammell has picked up his game during March Madness. During the tournament, he's averaging 12.8 points and four rebounds per game, both up from his regular season stats. The senior guard, who transferred from Seattle University, scored 21 points against Alabama, which was the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. Against Creighton, he made the game-winning free throw to send his Aztecs to the Final Four. Trammell was awarded the Most Outstanding Player for the 2023 NCAA Tournament's South Region.
San Diego State plays the Florida Atlantic Owls on Saturday at 6:09 p.m. Eastern on CBS.
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