How Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs Are Exceeding March Madness Expectations

by Ethan Kim
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Brian Dutcher is well-known for his accomplishments as an assistant coach at Michigan and as the head coach of San Diego State. He was part of a team that won an NCAA Championship in 1989, and he was pivotal in building SDSU into a West Coast powerhouse. In his six seasons with the university, Brian has already achieved two March Madness victories – and there’s still much more to come!

The Aztecs, a No. 5 seed team, will compete against Alabama, the No. 1 seed, to earn their first trip to the Elite Eight on Friday in Louisville in the South Region. Although they are considered the underdog with a 7 1/2 points disadvantage (according to FanDuel Sportsbook), they are up for the challenge!

Dutcher said that our main opponent needs to be ourselves. We should focus on being the best versions of ourselves and if we can do this, then we have a good chance of winning.

The Aztecs have made it to the Sweet 16 of March Madness for only the third time ever, and the first time since 2014! They earned both the Mountain West regular-season and tournament titles, then beat Charleston and Furman in order to make it this far. Coaches Fisher and Dutcher worked hard over the years to turn this program into one with great expectations. For Dutcher, making it to the Sweet 16 is just what his team should be doing.

The Aztecs’ performance in the NCAA Tournament is not as good as expected, and they could have possibly been at the top of their game in 2020 since they were 30-2 with a great player Malachi Flynn on board. However, due to the COVID pandemic, there was no tournament that year. Coach Dutcher emphasizes that this success comes from teamwork rather than his own individual efforts.

Coach Dutcher said, “We get money to coach the team and help them reach their best potential. We’re also supposed to win games, especially in March!” He has worked with Coach Fisher for a total of 27 years, six of which he was named the “Head Coach in Waiting”. Additionally, when we recruit new players we need to be real about what they can achieve – winning a Final Four or National Championship doesn’t come easy!

“I’m really happy when I see kids have a good experience,” Dutcher said. “I’ve been to many events and I don’t take anything for granted. But it’s great seeing those who came hoping to do well actually doing well now.”

The Aztecs are really good at basketball, with their coach pushing them to focus on defense. Four of the top five players who score the most points have transferred from other teams. The leader in scoring is Matt Bradley (13 points) and he’s been playing with the team for two seasons already. Darrion Trammell (9.5), Micah Parrish (7.9) and Jaedon LeDee, who stands tall at 6-foot-9 and weighs 240 pounds, are all new this season. LeDee usually scores 7.8 points and grabs 5.2 rebounds per game.

Coach Dutcher’s nine-player team consists of some players who were with the team during last year, including Adam Seiko, Nathan Mensah, Lamont Butler, Keshad Johnson, and Aguek Arop. They were just three days away from getting the biggest win ever before Covid put a stop to sports activities.

Seiko said they are using the bad times as a motivation, which was really disappointing. Three years later, they’re almost in the Sweet 16 of the tournament and plan to keep moving further until they reach their goal of the Final Four. Last year, SDSU had a rough defeat against Syracuse in Indianapolis bubble and then sadly lost to Creighton in overtime.

Seiko said that having more chances in the NCAA Tournament is really wonderful. This showed how their team at San Diego State had worked hard to make it into the tournament every season. Once they were there, they didn’t end up winning since they lost in the first round. But this year was different- they found new ways to become better and reach further. Everyone involved was excited for them to have a chance of being successful.

Fisher watched with his wife Angie from the second row near the court during home games and he was happy to be able to help Seiko accomplish these goals.

“I’m really proud of Dutch. When we came here back in 1999, we talked about creating something amazing that people won’t just remember for a short while. We wanted to create a good base and develop our program further over time – and that’s exactly what has happened!”

Check out all the March Madness updates on https://bigbignews.net/march-madness and https://bigbignews.net/ncaa-mens-bracket, plus don’t forget to follow along on Twitter at https://twitter.com/AP_Top25!

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