San Diego State Basketball elected to extend head coach Brian Dutcher. The Aztecs believe that he’s the guy for the long haul.
Even though the national pandemic canceled the NCAA Tournament and many conference tournaments, this last season of college basketball was filled with intriguing and memorable stories. One of the biggest surprises of the season was the play of San Diego State, who marched to a 26-0 start and were all but guaranteed of a top 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
With a talented roster and momentum, these Aztecs were a national title contender, though that opportunity to contend on the biggest stage clearly never happened.
The architect of that brilliant roster was head coach Brian Dutcher, a man with an intriguing history in college basketball. As a longtime assistant under the great Steve Fisher, he helped bring the Fab Five to Michigan nearly thirty years ago.
He had many chances to take over a program on his own, but he stayed on Fisher’s bench for nearly three decades, finally taking over the San Diego State program after Fisher’s retirement in 2017. In his first two seasons, Dutcher led the Aztecs to a pair of fourth-place finishes in the MWC, including a conference tournament title in his first season.
Obviously, the program made a major step forward this past season. Dutcher brought in successful transfers like Malachi Flynn and Yanni Wetzell, developed Matt Mitchell into a star, and put the Aztecs literally on the map yet again. In a season where they upended teams like BYU, Creighton, and Iowa, the Aztecs proved they belonged among college basketball’s best teams.
Can San Diego State Basketball keep it up?
Unfortunately, that was last year and time moves forward. Flynn and Wetzell are both gone, leaving a major need to make up for their production going forward. Mitchell returns for his senior year, but there are clear holes to be filled by new players on the roster. The Aztec’s recruiting and roster building has been impressive to this point, but there’s clearly no guarantee that they’ll be as successful next year, but could this be a new beginning for the program?
Dutcher already has nearly four decades of experience in college basketball, but he’s certainly established himself as someone who can take the Aztecs to the next level. There’s no telling how San Diego State would have done in the NCAA Tournament had it been played, but you better believe that Dutcher and the Aztecs will be ready for the next one.
You can’t guarantee that the next transfer will become a Malachi Flynn or you’re going to get amazing play out of each of your new recruits. College basketball is an imperfect science for everybody, even the Hall of Fame coaches plugging away at the Blue Blood schools. However, San Diego State is in a very fortunate position to have a coach like Dutcher on the sidelines.
He’s spent his time learning and studying the game and he’s going to be fully committed to making San Diego State the best program he possibly can. It’s very likely that Dutcher stays with the Aztecs until his retirement, and until that day San Diego State will have a great recruiter with an eye for talent. Few people thought this Aztecs team could have won 30 games (even without an NCAA Tournament), but perhaps they’ll start believing now.
Could San Diego State become a consistent top-25 team over the next few years? Among the teams in the MWC, Dutcher’s Aztecs are certainly the heavy favorite, specifically since Dutcher will likely never be plucked away by a power conference program.
Nevada was trending in this direction before watching Eric Musselman depart for Arkansas. Utah State is in great shape, especially after knocking the Aztecs out in the Mountain West title game. There are some talented teams in the rest of the league, but again the focus goes back to San Diego State.
What can we expect moving forward from Dutcher and the Aztecs? It’s important to keep our expectations in check. San Diego State is not going to start every season 26-0. However, they do have an incredible leader in Dutcher, who is the best man to continue to build on what Steve Fisher created with this program (with Dutcher’s help).
Half a decade from now we could be talking about the Aztecs in a very different way, especially if they find that success in the NCAA Tournament. With Dutcher leading the way, anything’s possible.