For the first time this season, the San Diego State Aztecs will be playing coming off a loss. The UNLV Runnin Rebels shocked the Aztecs at Viejas Arena with a stunning 66-63 victory. SDSU now hosts Colorado State Tuesday night on senior night.
Coach Dutcher did something that not a lot of teams do in the regular season: unveil the regular-season conference champions banner from that year. Whether or not this affected the team’s performance, it is still fascinating.
The Aztecs offense did not shoot the ball well against UNLV. A team that usually shoots 47.3% from the field and scores 75.4 PPG only scored 63 points and shot 38.9% from the field. Their shooting from behind the arc struggled as well. SDSU shoots typically 38.2% for three. Against UNLV, they shot 29.6% from behind the arc.
A big target is now lifted from the Aztecs’ back, but teams will now believe they are beatable. Colorado State will be the first team to attempt to give the Aztecs back-to-back losses.
When San Diego State traveled to Colorado State, it was early December and SDSU’s conference opener. The Aztecs slaughtered the Rams 79-57. Malachi Flynn and Matt Mitchell dominated, scoring 23 and 18 points. Additionally, Nathan Mensah started, who is now out.
They now face off in the final week of February. Although this game does not affect the conference outcome for San Diego State, it is an important game for both teams.
For San Diego State, the margin of error to be a top seed is now gone following their loss. The top seed in the Mountain West Conference(MWC) tournament already belongs to SDSU, and they are locked into the NCAA tournament. However, the Aztecs likely need to win the rest of their games to be a #1 seed.
For Colorado State, MWC tournament seeding is on the line. The top four seeds get a bye in the tournament. This makes the path to winning the tournament significantly easier, limiting the number of wins needed from four to three. For a team like Colorado State who will not earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, getting the bye is crucial. They currently sit in 5th place in the MWC standings.
There are three seniors on this SDSU roster who will be honored pregame Tuesday night.
K.J. Feagin is a graduate transfer playing in his first year after playing at Santa Clara. Feagin averages 8.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, and 3.1 APG. While Feagin is typically good on the offensive end of the floor, his biggest contributions come defensively. Even though Feagin doesn’t get a ton of credit for his contributions, he is a big reason as to why SDSU is a potential top seed.
Yanni Wetzell is also a graduate transfer, this time from Vanderbilt University. Wetzell stepped up and moved from forward to center, following the loss of Nathan Mensah. He averages 11.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG, and 1.4 APG. Wetzell became a student section favorite, getting multiple chants in his honor.
The final senior is Nolan Norain. Norain is a more typical senior who spent all four years at SDSU. Norain saw a decent amount of playing time in his Sophomore and Junior year but took a back seat this year. He never averaged more than five PPG, but always gave quality minutes off the bench. His hard work and commitment to the program for four years will be deservedly recognized.
Tip-off for the game is at 8:00 p.m. PST. This is the final opportunity to see the Aztecs at home before the postseason. San Diego State is favored by 13 points. They will look to start a new winning streak and get hot before entering the postseason.
Dominic is a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Journalism. He also is the producer and co-host of the “Padres EVT Podcast.”