“Aztecs Basketball–Will Be Different”
3-point shots in the middle of a pandemic.
Practice time…Covid tests….waiting to hear…hoping for the best.
Empty seats…but lots of followers.
What a strange season ahead of us.
San Diego State opens its delayed college basketball season on Wednesday night, with nationally ranked UCLA in town.
Things you never thought you’d see at Viejas Arena…a national power like UCLA agreeing to play in San Diego. No fans in the stands, no “Show” of support. Cardboard Cutouts of fans courtside. Piped in crowd noise.
And the great unknown, how long can the Aztecs play games with the pandemic crisis blasting into the lane like a guard penetrating on a charging foul.
Not only won’t there be fans in the stands, there won’t be Malachi Flynn, Yonni Wetzel and KJ Feagin on the floor either. Flynn, gone to the NBA Toronto Raptors…Wetzel back in New Zealand…Feagin having graduated.
Coach Brian Dutcher will roll out a veteran group of bigs against UCLA..but a very new backcourt, where JUCO transfer Trey Pulliam will be asked to carry the workload.
The best news is that power center Nathan Mensah is back in the paint after missing last year with a blood clot issue. A third year player, he looks powerful, explosive and healthy.
Matt Mitchell, becoming a tough power forward, is back for his fourth year.
And gritty veterans Jordan Schakel and AG Arop and Adam Seiko return to play the roles they excelled at a year ago.
There are four freshmen on board, but if they play, it means the Aztecs have issues on the floor.
The newcomers include small college three point shooter Terrell Gomez, who averaged 19-per game each of the last two years at CSUN in the Big Sky Conference.
Who knows what they get out of Maryland transfer Josh Tomiac, who played off the bench in the ACC.
But in UCLA, they face a talent loaded team. Mick Cronin’s group went (19-11) last year and returns 5-starters, a transfer from Kentucky, and 8-of their top 10-players from last winter.
You will know about Chris Smith, Jalen Hill, Cody Riley and John Juzang. That’s a truck load of talent that will pull into the Viejas Arena parking lot for this game. Smith and Hill opted out of the NBA draft to return to Pauley Pavilion. Jurzang transferred in from John Calipuri’s program at UK.
So hard for SDSU not have the 12,000 plus raging lunatics in the stands for this game. They would have made a difference, made it tougher on UCLA.
SDSU is (157-21) at Viejas since 2010 at home. State has played Arizona, Arizona State and Washington in the building, but this is the best PAC-12 team they have faced here.
The Atecs, they come off the NCAA-season where they went (30-2) but could not finish the season with the cancellation of March Madness.
Somebody at San Diego State should be angry this team was not even preseason ranked by the AP-Coaches poll. What a disservice.
Coaches love to say, ‘I want to find out about my team’ early. ‘Need to know how they handle adversity’. Well they will tonight.
Maybe the UCLA game is the toughest they have faced in decades to open the season, aside from the Midway Game years ago against the Syracuse Orangemen.
Game time..it will be strange. Who they play. Who won’t be on the floor. Who won’t be in the building.
Coach Brian Dutcher, who fears no-one on the court, says this is the toughest schedule the Aztecs have played in the 20-years he has been on the Hill. UCLA-the Pac 12 favorite; UCI-the Big West favorite; BYU-a WAC powerhouse; Arizona State and St-Mary’s upper echelon in their league, plus the grind of what the MWC could be.
Strange season ahead of us in a very strange 2020-year.