They are going where no one thought they would be going, the NCAA tournament.
March Madness has arrived and San Diego State is going to play next week, against the Houston Cougars.
Who could have imagined this just a month ago, when blowout losses on the road, a (5-7) conference record, and injuries and poor play, plus empty seats, were all part of what the program had become.
Trey Kell, the veteran guard, a rock solid player, though not a superstar, saved his best for last, in the game they had to win, the huge Aztecs come from behind win against New Mexico in the title game.
Beset by 4-injuries this year, on a team that was underachieving, Kell stepped up in the biggest moment of the season.
Kell…3-point jumper out of the corner…short step back jumper in the lane…2-point basket from the foul line….a long distance 3-pointer….and a driving layup…all in a 7-minute span, turning a 6-point deficit into an (82-75) win over a stunned Lobos teams.
Brian Dutcher made a move out of desperation, sitting foul troubled Jalen McDaniels and erratic Malik Pope, going to a 3-guard concept with Kelly, Jeremey Hensley and Devon Watson, plus bench warmers Max Montana and utility big body Cam Rooks.
For 8-minutes it worked, and Kell, the slick guard, took over the game.
New Mexico knew he was coming, and still couldn’t stop him. Rooks clogged up the middle changing the Lobos ability to penetrate. Montana hit a couple of key baskets and played tough on the baseline, and Kell became Mr-Outside-Inside, going (6-for-6) at one point.
End result, a gritty win over the Lobos, this coming after the Aztecs out-athleted a (27-6) Nevada team, and had beaten down Fresno State. 3-wins in a 3-nites against the best teams in the league, and this after a sprint to the finish line beating some of those teams down the stretch of the conference schedule.
Don’t confuse this team with the 30-win teams of Kawhi Leonard or Jamaal Russell, for this team would not stand a chance against those teams. This coach is not that coach, Steve Fisher, at least not yet. But what we have seen in the last 3-weeks is special.
Dutcher has them playing their best basketball at the best time, and Trey Kelly, a quality kid, giving them quality minutes at the most important time of his final season. They earned this trip to face Houston. They do it again, they then get a shot at Michigan. Roll that ball on the floor.
San Diego State basketball. Send their mail in-care-of March Madness. It won’t be marked ‘return to sender’ thanks to Trey Kell.