Friday in Louisville, No. 1 seed Alabama will take on the No. 5 seed San Diego State Aztecs in a Sweet 16 matchup in the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
Due to the fact that the Aztecs play in the Mountain West Conference, and generally tip off late in the evening because of the difference in time zones, this might be the first time the casual basketball fan will see the Aztecs play. So, who is San Diego State, and how did they get here?
In a victory over Utah State, also an NCAA Tournament team, San Diego State won their seventh Mountain West title and second in three years to clinch the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, getting slotted as the No. 5 seed in the South region and making their 15th appearance in the tournament.
Thursday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Aztecs defeated No. 12 seed Charleston 63-57 to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in program history. The Aztecs followed up their first round victory with a dominating defensive effort to lead them to a 75-52 victory over No. 13 seed Furman, punching their ticket to a Sweet 16 matchup against No. 1 seed Alabama. The Sweet 16 appearance is just the third in program history and is the furthest San Diego State has ever made it in the NCAA Tournament. While it may mean nothing, the Aztecs had the easiest path to the Sweet 16 by having to defeat a No. 12 and No. 13 seed along the way.
In the regular season, San Diego State only faced four Power Five opponents, splitting those games 2-2. Their two wins were against Stanford and Ohio State while their losses were Arizona and an overtime loss against SEC opponent Arkansas.
Head coach Brian Dutcher has San Diego State as one of the best defensive teams in the country, thanks to their length and athleticism. According to Ken Pom, the Aztecs rank fifth in defensive efficiency, which should offer a great challenge to a Crimson Tide team that is also extremely long and athletic.
The Aztecs will have no shortage of experience coming into the Sweet 16 matchup against Alabama as their starting lineup consists of four seniors and one junior. The Aztecs are led in scoring by their senior guard Matt Bradley, who averages 13 points per game. Like the Crimson Tide, San Diego State plays a lot of guys off the bench to make sure that their players stay fresh the entire game.
On Friday, San Diego State will hope that their elite defense and experience can help lead them to an upset over No. 1 seed Alabama and advance to their first-ever Elite Eight appearance.
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