San Diego State Basketball accomplished a lot in the landscape of college basketball. In turn, their historical season being cut short leaves more questions than answers. One question is ‘what would a Final Four run mean?”
The ending of the 2019-20 NCAA Men’s Division I season may have been abrupt, but San Diego State Basketball managed to leave a mark on the history of their program. This season will be remembered as the “what if” season and unfortunately, unanswered questions are always the most difficult to come to terms with.
Prior to the NCAA tournament ending before it got started, San Diego State accumulated 30 wins overall this season, which consequently raised their program total to 840 victories over its 51 seasons. Their 17-1 record in the Mountain West Conference is the best winning percentage in school history. This edition of the Aztecs won the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship for the first time since Trey Kell led them in 2015-16.
The Aztecs had to wait until December 9th when they were already 10-0 to be ranked in the Associated Press’ top 25. Then they were 15-0 before being ranked in the top 10 on January 6th. The Aztecs had notable victories over Creighton and BYU during the season which allowed them to achieve their highest ranking as a program at No.4, an accomplishment they share with the 2010-11 Aztecs.
It is only the 2010-11 Aztecs that is preventing the current team from being the greatest San Diego State team, not only in the last 40 years but, in program history. The 2010-11 Aztecs coached by Steve Fisher went 34-3 overall and 14-2 while winning the Mountain West Conference regular-season and tournament. The 2010-11 team led by Kawhi Leonard was on more people’s radar that just those in attendance at Viejas Arena.
As a sophomore Leonard averaged 15.5 points per game, and side by side with future NBA players Malcolm Thomas and Jamaal Franklin they began the season nationally ranked at No.25. An early win versus No.11 Gonzaga would be the foundation for being ranked the entire season and as high as No.4. Eventually, they earned a #2 seed in the West region as March rolled around.
This year’s squad may not have had the early season recognition, and they have only one player who is attracting moderate attention from NBA teams. Junior guard Malachi Flynn is currently projected as a mid-second round selection, a far cry from Leonard who was selected 15th overall, a fact that helps 2010-11 stay above this year’s team.
Even detractors who would point to the Aztecs only having the fifth-ranked Strength of Schedule in the last decade of the program, cannot deny that a #2 seed would be the worst the Aztecs would be awarded this season. Just as this year’s “what if” will stick in the mind of fans, the “what if” San Diego State did not meet the eventual National Champion Connecticut Huskies in the West Regional Final, is even greater. This places the 2019-20 San Diego Aztecs second in program history.