The San Diego State basketball team is set to play in the Maui Jim Maui Invitational towards the end of November and their first matchup will be against the Duke Blue Devils.
Yes, the very same Blue Devils who finished last season ranked No.9 in the AP polls and No.4 in the Coaches Poll. Duke made it all the way to the Elite 8 last year only to lose to Kansas in overtime.
Despite losing their entire starting five to the NBA Draft, including the offensively talented Grayson Allen, the Blue Devils are still as loaded and deadly as a Clint Eastwood six-shooter. Sporting four McDonald’s All-Americans, Duke has also picked up three of the top players from the 2018 recruiting class –R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Zion Williamson –while rounding out their squad with top point guard Tre Jones. Barrett, Reddish, and Williamson are all projected to be NBA bound after this season.
This doesn’t mean the Aztecs are simply easy pickings for one of the top programs in the nation.
The Aztecs feature a NBA prospect of their own in Jalen Washington and are returning multiple key pieces from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, including Matt Mitchell and Devin Watson, as well as four well-regarded recruits. Said recruits certainly have the length to go up against Duke, as 6-foot-6 Aguek Arop, 6-foot-10 Joel and Nathan Mensha, and 6-foot-8 (as well as four-star recruit) Ed Chang bring physicality and size to an Aztec squad that has lost Max Montana, Trey Kell, and Malik Pope.
Duke is not the only strong basketball program in the mix. Arizona, Auburn, Gonzaga, and Xavier all made the NCAA Tournament last season and make up a great schedule for basketball. San Diego State will be facing Duke in Game 2 of the Tournament and, if they do manage to pull off a stunning upset of Duke, would go on to face the winner of the Auburn-Xavier game.
This is not the Aztecs’ first time in the tournament. San Diego State last appeared in the Tournament in 2014 when they defeated Cal State Northridge, BYU, and Pittsburgh to reach the finals, only to lose a two-point heartbreaker to Arizona. Duke has made five appearances in the tournament and has never lost a game in any of them, going a perfect 15-0.
The Aztecs will be aiming to make that record 15-1 come November 19.