Introducing Cinderella: San Diego State is back in the NCAA tournament

(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
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Conference: Mountain West

Coach: Brian Dutcher

Record: 22-10, 11-7 (fourth in the Mountain West)

Rankings and Ratings:

– Kenpom: 50
– RPI: 68
– AP/USA TODAY: Not ranked

Seeding: San Diego State enters the tournament with solid computer numbers and some decent wins. But with some bad losses in Mountain West play, they’ll likely be in the 12-14 range come Selection Sunday.

Names you need to know: The Aztecs are a balanced outfit filled with four double-figure scorers. Senior forward Malik Pope was a highly-touted recruit who is now a productive presence. Junior guard Devin Watson is also a factor scoring the ball while freshman Matt Mitchell has emerged as a presence. Freshman Jalen McDaniels might be the best long-term prospect among the group.

Stats you need to know: San Diego State can really defend during certain stretches. The Aztecs own a top-40 adjusted defense on KenPom as they have the length and athleticism of a power conference team. Don’t be fooled by the seed — this team is filled with former top-150 recruits who fit the high-major profile.

Big wins, bad losses: An up-and-down season gives San Diego State an intriguing profile entering the tournament. They own two wins over Nevada in the last week while also beating Gonzaga and Georgia earlier in the year. Even with the good wins, San Diego State lost to mediocre Mountain West teams

How’d they get here?: San Diego State is riding a nine-game winning streak entering the 2018 NCAA tournament. The Aztecs beat Fresno State, Nevada and New Mexico on three straight days in Las Vegas to claim the autobid in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.

Outlook: With a big winning streak, loads of talent and two recent wins over an NCAA tournament team, the Aztecs are an extremely dangerous double-digit seed. This is the type of group that can make the second weekend if the matchups line up correctly.

How do I know you?: First-year head coach Brian Dutcher is a long-time assistant coach under Stever Fisher at both Michigan and San Diego State. Featured prominently in the “Fab Five” 30 for 30, Dutcher is a 58-year-old, first-time head coach making the NCAA tournament in his first season. That’s a fun storyline to root for. NCAA tournament fans should also be quite familiar with San Diego State. The Aztecs made six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances before going to the NIT last season.