Last season’s San Diego state Mountain West championship rings featured a map of the United States with an Aztec logo, representative of the last undefeated Division I team after a 26-0 start.
It would have been a more ordinary championship ring, glittering with the usual selection of gems, had Malachi Flynn missed a 3-pointer from Yuma over two major defenders, 0.9 seconds ahead of a 59-57 win over San Jose State on December . 8 that, to be honest, the Aztecs probably didn’t deserve it – the only one-ball game of the 26th century.
“They say a shot makes a game, a game makes a season,” said coach Brian Dutcher earlier this week. “It has led us to a winning streak of 26 games. … Who knows, we’re losing this game and some of those memories – the map and all of those things – aren’t there for us. “
The Aztecs would win the regular season title at Mountain West with a record five games above second place and 14 games ahead of the 3-15 Spartans in tenth place.
However, the unbalanced schedule of the conference last season did not include a street game in the state of San Jose. The chance to prove December 8th was an anomaly. Monday night at the Viejas Arena (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1) is their first meeting since then, and their fate hasn’t changed much.
The Aztecs (13-4, 7-3) fight for another title. The Spartans (5-11, 3-9) are ninth.
“Well,” said Dutcher, “I think there will certainly be some level of respect when we play them after we were pushed to the end last year.” You will have our greatest respect. We will not take it lightly. We will be prepared. “
You will because of what happened last season and because of what happened last week.
Two games against New Mexico in Lubbock, Texas, were wiped out just hours before the Aztecs scheduled departure for the airport when the Lobos decided they couldn’t or wouldn’t play with an exhausted squad. The conference bureau continues to verify the veracity of their claims in the absence of COVID-19 positives, particularly regarding the integrity of the conference title race and whether the canceled games should be classified as non-competitions or rejections.
Dutcher spent a few days watching a substitute game to no avail. His calls included Gonzaga No. 1 and Houston No. 5.
“It only made sense when we played someone higher than us in the NET,” said Dutcher. “We have received calls from people on the NET lower than us to improve their résumés. It didn’t work out, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other options. “
You retooled Tuesday and Wednesday training schedules to work on situation games that you don’t seem to have time for – three down in the final seconds, three up, two down but having to walk the length of the floor. They took Thursday off and spent three days preparing for the state of San Jose and its various zone defenses.
The Spartans, like New Mexico, have not played games in their home arena because of a strict public health policy in Santa Clara County. Unlike the Lobos, they have continued to develop unabated, even after their women’s team signed off for the rest of the season in early January.
And that despite a 0: 9 start in the conference game.
“It says a lot not only for your coaching staff and your administration, but also for your team,” said Dutcher, “wanting to have a season so bad that you are willing to live on the streets, not on campus to deal with. ” living out of a hotel room with the frustration of nothing but travel. And that is an enormous challenge and a merit for your coaching staff and your team to endure this and keep fighting. “
They were eventually rewarded with a three-game winning streak. It came against New Mexico (once) and Air Force (twice), which are 3-22 in conference together. But if you have averaged 2.4 conference wins and have never been more than eighth since joining Mountain West in 2013/14, you appreciate the little things.
Now the Spartans are getting an SDSU team that hasn’t played in nine days, which may or may not be good for them. The last two times the Aztecs have been without a game for more than a week, things have not gone so well. Both followed a home defeat: 72-62 against BYU after an eight-day break and 70-67 against Colorado State (despite leading by 26) after an eleven-day break.
SDSU and SJSU will meet again on Wednesday evening, then the Aztecs will have eight days for a two-game series in Fresno state. Could Dutcher toss his leash in the water and look for another bite?
With the games in New Mexico officially canceled, he has two games below the NCAA maximum of 27 this season, even if the two postponed games against UNLV are postponed in the makeup week leading up to the Mountain West tournament.
“There’s always talk and thought about playing a game so we’ll see,” said Dutcher. “Every week you look up and someone else takes a break so that opponents become free. So let’s look at who was on break, who to play, and does it make sense to try and get a game? So yes, we are always actively looking for games. “
San Jose State at SDSU
Monday: 8 p.m., Viejas Arena
In the air: FS1; 1360-AM, 101.5-FM
Records: SJSU is 5-11, 3-9; SDSU is 13-4, 7-3
Series History: SDSU leads 41-35 and is 11-1 since the Spartans joined Mountain West in 2013-14. The only loss was in the state of San Jose in 2017.
Spartans Update: They’re coming in for the first time since 2017 when the Spartans had Brandon Clarke (before moving to Gonzaga and finishing number 21 overall) with a three-game winning streak and Mountain West Player of the Week Select Viejas Arena in the NBA draft). The Player of the Week is Senior F Ralph Agee, who averaged 18.5 points and 9.0 rebounds in the Falcons sweep. The San Jose State Media Relations Department notes that the Spartans are 3-1 under the Biden administration. The Air Force games were played in Phoenix because the Santa Clara County public health code prohibits sports teams from practicing or playing. The big revelation was Senior G Richard Washington, who leads the mountain west in the standings (20.7 ppg) and played three games of 30 or more games (including 35 against the State of Colorado). According to the Kenpom metric, the Spartans are 335th nationwide on the defensive. They are the last in the MW in goal defense (80.8 points) and the penultimate in the rebound margin (-8.1 per game).
Aztec update: They climbed to 22nd place on the NCAA’s NET metric, best of all in the mountains west after the state of Boise slipped after their Nevada defeat on Friday. The Broncos are 32 (ahead of Sunday’s game), Colorado State 45 and Utah State 49. The Aztecs occupy 23rd place in Kenpom, making them their best of the season. Aguek Arop has been back to training after missing the last two games with dizziness but Keith Dinwiddie Jr. (hip) is doubtful. Here’s what a soft schedule will do for you: As of January 22nd, the Aztecs have been number one in Div. Me in the evaluation (93.5 points), first in the evaluation range (plus-31.5), second in the rebound range (plus-18.0) and fourth in the accuracy of the shot (55.5 percent). The Aztecs have scored 87 or more goals in four straight games for the first time since 1971. They are just a game that is no longer in the first place on the losing column after the Boise State defeat on Friday. All three Aztec players who scored double-digit in the last game of the season against San Jose State are still on the squad: Matt Mitchell (13), Nathan Mensah (12) and Jordan Schakel (11). Mensah also had 12 rebounds and four blocks.
Next up: against San Jose State on Wednesday (8 p.m., CBSSN)