The San Diego State Aztecs are headed to their first ever Final Four in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament thanks in large part to their relentless defense. The team’s identity is built on that defensive nature, which has been set by sixth-year head coach Brian Dutcher, who was previously the right-hand man to head coach Steve Fisher at SDSU since 1999 before taking over for his boss in 2017. In three of the last four years, the Aztecs have ranked in the top 10 in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency, and it’s led to no shortage of winning.
SDSU has come out on top in close games, winning three out of their four victories in the Big Dance by seven points or fewer. The outside noise is that they win ugly, or that it’s not aesthetically pleasing basketball. But like Tony Bennett and Virginia in 2019, the Aztecs don’t care about that because it’s all led to winning. While defense has always been a constant, offensive freedom has come to fruition this season due to the impact of transfers like Darrion Trammell, Matt Bradley, Jaedon LeDee, and Micah Parrish.
The Aztecs’ vision when they arrived in 1999 that they could make a Final Four and win a national championship is now coming to fruition. Dutcher said that, “We believed it could happen. Some people might say it was a fantasy, but obviously, we’re sitting here today. Culture is 24 years in one place. That’s where I’ve been. That’s culture.” With Florida Atlantic standing between the Aztecs and a national championship game appearance, the mentality remains the same. Dutcher said that, “If you think you’re good enough now and you can’t get any better, don’t get off the bus. We have another level to go. And even today, the message was ‘if you don’t think we can get better at practice today, then don’t practice.'” Bradley and his teammates did practice, and are ready for what lies ahead on Saturday.
SDSU’s identity is built on a relentless defensive nature, set by sixth-year head coach Brian Dutcher. In three of the last four years, the Aztecs have ranked in the top 10 in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency. The Aztecs don’t care about winning ugly or not playing aesthetically pleasing basketball. Instead, defense has always been a constant, while offensive freedom has come to fruition this season due to the impact of transfers. The team’s vision when they arrived in 1999 that they could make a Final Four and win a national championship is now coming to fruition, and with that in mind, they remind themselves they have another level to go.