Perfection looms for #4 San Diego State, who captured the Mountain West conference championship with an easy 82-59 victory over the New Mexico Lobos.The SDSU Aztecs keep winning and improved to 25-0 to maintain their ultimate quest for an undefeated season.
Junior forward, Matt Mitchell, led San Diego State with 22 points. Mitchell pulled down 12 rebounds for his first career double-double. Despite an off-night shooting for the Aztecs top-scorer, Malachi Flynn, finished with 15 points.
With a perfect 14-0 record in conference play, San Diego State locked up the Mountain West with four games remaining.
“The hardest thing in basketball, obviously other than winning a Final Four, is winning a regular-season conference title, because you have to do it over the whole season,” said head coach Brian Dutcher. “To have the title outright already with four games to play is an incredible accomplishment.”
Dutcher runs one of the premier defensive teams in the nation. San Diego State allows 58.4 points per game, which is ranked #5. The Aztecs held 16 out of 25 opponents to fewer than 60 points this season.
No West Coast Love, SDSU Rises Above
Although undefeated San Diego State had yet to crack the top three in the AP Top 25 Poll, the Aztecs remained in the Top 5 for the last four weeks with the #4 ranking. The March Madness Selection Committee tapped San Diego State as one of their #1 seeds, but they’ll have to head out to the East Coast to claim their top seed.
The Selection Committee ranked Gonzaga higher than San Diego State as the best team out West. As a result, Gonzaga earned the #1 seed in the West region and they sent San Diego State elsewhere.
The Mountain West does not hold as much weight as the Pac-12 or one of the power conferences such as the ACC or Big East. Despite being the best of the mid-major teams, SDSU’s strength of schedule has come under question with zero games against ranked teams.
San Diego State still pulled off impressive wins at BYU and at Utah State. They also defeated Iowa and Utah. Creighton is ranked #23 right now, but at the time SDSU blew out Creighton by 31 points, the Bluejays were not ranked.
Perfect 29-0… Probable
San Diego State has two home games and two road games to complete the Mountain West regular season.
“Now we have to get greedy,” Dutcher told his team. “We’ve got to try to win them all. It won’t be easy. Four really hard games to go, but now that we have the title, we have to have another goal, and that goal has to be to have a perfect season. That will be the next step, to try to finish with a perfect season.”
KenPom predicts San Diego State will finish with an undefeated record at 29-0. However, it’s the postseason where things can get weird for SDSU.
The Aztecs look like they’ll meet their nemesis Utah State in the Mountain West tournament. Utah State is currently on the March Madness Bubble according to ESPN’s Joe Lunadri. The Aggies will need to run the table and win the Mountain West tournament to guarantee a spot in March Madness. Utah State went 0-2 against SDSU this season with double-digit losses both times.
On Deck: BSU, UNLV, CSU, Nevada
SDSU play at Boise State this weekend in Mountain West conference action. The Aztecs will have six days off before their next game when UNLV visits San Diego. UNLV only lost to SDSU by four points when they met in Las Vegas at the end of January. Out of all Mountain West foes, UNLV were the most difficult opponent for SDSU in 14 conference games this season.
The Aztecs host Colorado State for their final home game of the season on February 25.
SDSU flies up to Reno for the final Mountain West conference game of the season on Saturday, February 29. Nevada is looking to avenge a 68-55 loss earlier this season.