Nevada Won The League Last Year, But Will 2018 Be The Year The Aztecs Take The Mountain West Back?
Check out a full breakdown for SDSU’s upcoming 18 game conference slate
A tough end to the schedule could be a blessing in disguise in their last efforts to impress the selection committee come March.
For those who say that one player can’t alter the course of a program, they are sadly mistaken. Marvin Bagley III’s commitment tonight (between Duke, USC, and UCLA) will turn that lucky team into the national title favorite overnight. And while he has received nowhere near the amount of fanfare Bagley has, Matt Mitchell has the potential to infuse the same amount of hope into SDSU’s fanbase.
With his late addition to the ‘17-’18 roster, San Diego State should be considered the prohibitive favorites in the MW until further notice. However, being the favorites doesn’t guarantee you a title. Just ask the team two years ago when they lost the auto-bid in the MW title game to Fresno State. This full conference preview will detail every game on the slate and provide insight into what should be a solid year on the Mesa.
12/27/2017 at Wyoming
The conference opener should be fun as there is nothing quite like opening night. While Wyoming projects to be a team in the lower tier of the Mountain West, they should have enough firepower to make some noise this season. The Cowboys have a deadly combo of experience and a great home court that should test the Aztecs early. At the exhausting altitude level of 7,165 feet and in front of a raucous crowd, SDSU will get tossed right into the fire and they’ll have to make sure not to overlook a sneaky solid team hungry for a marquee win.
12/30/2017 vs Utah State
The conference home opener should be one of the most attended games in the past few years. Utah State isn’t by any means a contender, but the hype level surrounding SDSU is in full bandwagon mode as San Diegans are realizing that their tourney drought might end this year. The Show will be rocking and this game should be a blowout as hope starts to build on the Mesa.
1/03/2018 at Colorado State
The Rams actually only finished one game out of first place in the standings last year, but that was last year. They lost their two leading scorers from last year, but after the job Larry Eustachy has done in Fort Collins, it would be foolish to underestimate him. With this being their second game out of three at an altitude over 5,000 feet, this game has DANGER written all over it. Expect this game to be an early trial on the toughness of this team.
1/10/2018 vs San Jose State
SJSU is a potential Mountain West sleeper as they bring back a lot of pieces and assuming that their returners improved, this team has a chance to shake the conference up. That being said, with this game being at home, the State from the south should take care of business in San Diego and add another tick to the left column.
01/13/2018 at Boise State
There was no team entering the season with more conference hype than the Boise State. At one point, our resident bracketologist Eli Boettger actually ranked them ahead of both UNLV and SDSU in his preseason rankings. However, things can change in the blink of an eye and unfortunately for Boise, it was not a good one.
Paris Austin’s transfer put a damper on the Bronco’s season outlook, but possible preseason MW POY Chandler Hutchison will still make Boise a tough matchup for San Diego State.
1/17/2018 vs Fresno State
If you’re looking for the Mountain West dark horse, look no further. Two years ago, they stole an auto-bid at the Mountain West championship game and you best believe that the team hasn’t forgotten about that. Fresno State should be right up with the contenders this year and if the front court takes a step forward, they could be a serious threat to SDSU’s title hopes.
1/20/2018 at New Mexico
Has any team been more ravaged the past year than UNM? Probably not. The scandal with their AD, the mass exodus of players and coach, etc. This team has made gains on the recruiting trail, but even with the game at the Pit, this game shouldn’t be a close one at all. The biggest challenge here will be for Coach Dutcher to make sure his players aren’t looking ahead to the marquee matchup with UNLV a week from this date.
1/24/2018 vs Colorado State
Exactly three weeks after the trip to CSU, the Rams will come down to the Mesa looking to cause some serious chaos to the conference standings. By this point, we should know whether or not if this Rams team is legit. While Eustachy should have molded this team into a challenger, the Aztecs should win. The key is that they must once again be mentally tough and not overlook their opponent.
1/27/2018 at UNLV
Finally. The first marquee game of the MW season, expect one of the ESPN networks to pick this game up should both teams have the seasons they are projected to. With the additions of Shakur Juiston and Brandon McCoy, there is Big Dance buzz in Sin City again.
Menzies can clearly recruit, but can he coach? This will also be Dutcher’s first big MW challenge and it should be very interesting to see how he handles the pressure. The Thomas and Mack Center should be jumping and Rebels will be running. Get your popcorn because this one should be fun.
2/03/2018 vs Air Force
This game will be as routine and easy as any on their conference schedule. With last year’s last place finish still on their mind, expect AF to challenge the Aztecs til the end. It just won’t be a legitimate one. Even with primetime game hangover, SDSU shouldn’t run into any issues against the Academy.
*02/07/2018* at Fresno State
This game will be a very dangerous one for the men of the Mesa. Road games are never fun, especially against a team with a backcourt like Fresno State’s/ By now, we should know if they are legit and assuming they are, the Bulldogs will be salivating (pun intended) over an opportunity to boost their own resume. This matchup should have a pretty big effect on the conference standings, especially with time running down.
2/10/2018 at Nevada
This is the matchup every MW basketball fan has been waiting for. The kings of the conference for the better part of the decade vs the defending champions. The only question is if Nevada is the new prince or just a pauper. With a boatload of incoming transfers and the return of key veterans, they are the Mountain West champs until proven otherwise. This will probably be the best game in the conference up til this point and the winner will walk away with a shiny resume booster.
2/14/2018 vs Wyoming
Whether they win or lose in Reno, the Aztecs will undoubtedly be drained, both physically and emotionally. There will be no rest for the weary as a desperate Cowboys team will be waiting for them at the Mesa. At this point in the season, there will be minimal room for error and games like this have to be won. Running low on fuel, home crowd will need to show just enough love on Valentine’s Day if they want to help their team gut out a win.
2/17/2018 vs UNLV
This might be the most fun The Show will have all season. Consensus five-star Brandon McCoy will presumably be making his only appearance in San Diego and you best believe that the crowd will let him hear it for spurning his hometown team for another in the same conference. Politics aside, this game should be a lot of fun once again as both teams will be looking for a signature victory. As Selection Sunday rapidly approaches, this game will be a dogfight as both teams look to preserve their record. If you live within 60 miles of Viejas and you’re an Aztec fan, this one will be worth coming out for because this game has season-altering written all over it.
2/21/2018 at Air Force
The exact two-game home-away repeat from a couple weeks ago, a similar result should await State. As the season winds down, fatigue will be setting in. Luckily, Air Force won’t be very good. A game with minimal stress and the chance to rest starters will be just as important for the weary Aztecs as any they’ve played in the last few weeks.
2/24/2018 at San Jose State
The last road game of the year won’t be easy. The “official” rivals of State, the Spartans will be anxious to play spoiler and ruin the season of the Aztecs. A loss this late in the season to a team who probably won’t even be contending for a conference crown could potentially be crippling. With difficult matchups to close their regular season, this game should definitely be circled as a must-win as they gear up for the stretch run.
2/28/2018 vs Boise State
This game is probably the hardest to break down because of the unknown nature of BSU’s season. They could weather the loss of Austin and finish in the top half of the conference or really start to tail off as the season winds down. Presumably, they will be in a nosedive and once again, Dutcher must make sure his players aren’t looking ahead to the regular season finale against Nevada. Expect the selection committee to keep a close eye on this game as they evaluate just how tournament worthy SDSU is.
3/03/2018 vs Nevada
This one is for all the marbles. UNLV should be right up there til the very end, but expect the regular season crown to come down to this game. Both teams should be squarely on the bubble or perhaps one of the Last Four In. This would be a very impressive win to the committee as the victor adds another Top 100 KenPom win to the resume as well as a regular season conference title. Basically, this is an absolute must win for San Diego State.
The Mountain West is absolutely on the upswing this year. The conference has a chance to get two, maybe three teams into the NCAA tournament this season. If SDSU can navigate their way through the potential minefield of a conference schedule, expect them to be the highest seeded MW team on Selection Sunday.