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Can the San Diego State Aztecs Win March Madness in 2020?
Don’t look now, but the Aztecs have won their first 15 games and should be favored each and every time they take the floor from now until the end of conference play. San Diego State is rated 1st in the NET rankings, they have one of the best guards in the country, and they play outstanding defense under the direction of Brian Dutcher.
You might be wondering if a team from SoCal is a serious threat to make some noise in the 2020 NCAA Tournament, and that’s a fair idea to ponder. Can a team from the lowly Mountain West Conference really hang with the big boys from the Power Five?
I happen to think the answer is undeniably yes, and I’m happy to tell you why below. At the end, I’ll also share SDSU March Madness odds in case you’re interested in betting on them in 2020.
Malachi Flynn – Get Used to Hearing the Name
I absolutely love what Malachi Flynn brings to the table for the Aztecs. Here’s a 6’1” 185-pound guard who is a lethal shooter, a tremendous ballhandler, and possesses an uncanny ability to finish around the basket. In fact, watching Malachi play reminds me a bit of a former SDSU point guard who also happened to transfer to Montezuma Mesa from Washington State, Xavier Thames.
Flynn has the similar attacking mindset that Xavier did from 2012-2014, only Malachi is even quicker off the dribble. Leading the Aztecs by pouring in 15.9 points per game and dishing out more than five assists per contest, perhaps what’s most impressive about Flynn is that he shoots 43% from beyond the arc.
With Malachi quickly evolving into one of the premier guards in all of college basketball, the “Scarlet and Black” are in terrific hands.
Building an Impressive Resume
Thanks to a stellar resume that includes a number of bigtime victories, it doesn’t appear that SDSU will be slowing down anytime soon. Despite being ranked 7th in both the AP and Coaches Polls, they’re still sitting at +3300 to win the National title at most of the top college basketball betting sites.
I don’t know about you, but I’m smelling some value. It’s not like the Aztecs arrived at 15-0 without facing any quality opponents.
San Diego State went into Provo and took down BYU, which happens to be the lone home loss on the year thus far for the Cougars. SDSU smoked a quality Creighton team by 31 points in Sin City before thumping Iowa the following day in the championship game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational.
Surely facing a Utah team that was coming off of an upset victory over 6th-ranked Kentucky would pose a problem, but instead, the Aztecs absolutely obliterated the Utes 80-52. More recently, Coach Dutcher marched his group into Logan and took down Utah State without the services of their starting center and one of the top-rated individual defensive players in the nation.
For anyone who thought SDSU wasn’t battle-tested, let’s just go ahead and put that theory to bed.
Meet the Underrated Supporting Cast
As gifted as Malachi Flynn is, SDSU has a lot more to offer. Matt Mitchell shredded more than 20 pounds in the offseason yet is still a physical force to be reckoned with. Hailing from Riverside, CA, Mitchell (11.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG) is a much more reliable defender and doesn’t get gassed as easily. He has also improved his outside shooting drastically, now hitting more than 42% of his threes.
Speaking of improved shooting, you won’t find many guys who are as deadly from “trey-ville” as Jordan Schakel. Schakel’s rocked a solid 41.5% clip from outside a season ago, but the marksman now clocks in at 45.7% from deep.
While Mitchell and Schakel began their careers on Campanile Dr., it’s amazing what Brian Dutcher has been able to accomplish via luring in transfers. I mentioned that Malachi Flynn came over from Washington State, but there are two other transfer students providing massive impacts for the program.
Yanni Wetzell is about as well-traveled as they come, but it appears that the Auckland, New Zealand native has found a home in sunny San Diego. After brief stints at St. Mary’s and Vanderbilt, Dutcher and the rest of the Aztecs coaching staff has welcomed the 6’10” senior with open arms. Wetzell is chipping in with 10.7 PPG and 6.1 RPG, all while connecting on nearly 58% of his field-goal attempts.
Now for KJ Feagin, a natural-born scorer who averaged 17.5 PPG as a junior at Santa Clara. Feagin has accepted his role in the Aztecs offense as more of a facilitator, and his speed and decision-making have been crucial to SDSU’s success.
Worth noting, Nathan Mensah has missed the team’s last two games due to dealing with an undisclosed respiratory issue. No word on an official timetable for San Diego State’s sophomore center to return has been issued.
What’s the Aztecs’ Ceiling in 2020?
Considering Joe Lunardi has the Aztecs locked into a #2 seed in his latest version of bracketology, it’d be naïve of me to say SDSU isn’t a legitimate contender to reach the Final Four. When you take into account that we’ve seen most of the perennial “powerhouse programs” struggle at times, it’d be silly to say that San Diego State couldn’t advance to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta come the first weekend in April.
Looking for a team that you can trust to get stops in crunch time? The Aztecs surrender just 56.8 points per game — the fifth-fewest in America.
In need of a clutch performer? Well, Malachi Flynn’s presence on the floor allows us to check that box off as well.
I haven’t seen anything out of Duke or Kansas that should make San Diego State fans shake in their boots, and the eye test tells me SDSU is every bit as good, if not better, than teams like Gonzaga and Butler.
SDSU is +3300 at SportsBetting.ag to win the NCAA National Championship, so this is a college basketball futures bet that really piqued my interest. I see several games on the Aztecs’ coming schedule that will likely have them installed as double-digit favorites, meaning this is a squad that could very reasonably be undefeated as we head into the final stretch in February.
Should that be the case, we can go ahead and kiss that handsome +3300 price tag goodbye.