“Well, they tell me we’re the last man standing so far, so that's a good thing,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said Thursday. “I did stay up and watch the end of Alabama and Auburn, because like anything else, at some level, I’m a college basketball fan.
“When Auburn went down, we started getting the pictures of ‘The Map.’ San Diego State was the entire map, so it was pretty cool.” San Diego State fans have been enamored with the “The Map” on social media as their team has gotten off to the second-hottest start in school history. A map of the United States has displayed the dwindling number of undefeated teams and their geographic region. Since late December, San Diego State and Auburn split the map.
On Wednesday night, the whole country belonged to the Aztecs. Dutcher, in his third season as head coach, has been aware of “The Map” for several weeks. “My wife is kind of graphic, so I don’t know if my sister sent it to her, and there were five or six or seven teams on it and it was kind of cool,” he said. “As we started eliminating teams, ‘The Map’ became popular in the Dutcher house — graphically, color schemes, red, black on the whole map, half of the country, it was kind of fun to watch. I know the fans get a kick out of it.”
On Wednesday night, someone posted a graphic of the solar system with the Aztecs’ logo on the moon and the planets. “I saw someone posted one, we’re on the map in the universe now,” Dutcher said. “We cover the moon and Mercury and Mars and Jupiter, San Diego State on all of them. So you can make the maps say whatever you want. It’s kind of cool right now. It’s a great conversation to have and fun to have.”
Dutcher and his players cautioned that “The Map” is strictly for fun and that the Aztecs can’t take anything for granted. “It puts a bigger target on our back,” Dutcher said. “It does nothing other than make us a national story, but all the work lies ahead. We have to get ready for a very good Nevada team.”
After winning 64-55 at Fresno State on Tuesday night, the Aztecs return home to sold-out Viejas Arena on Saturday night to host Nevada (11-7, 4-2). The Aztecs are two wins shy of matching the best start in school history, when they won their first 20 games in 2010-11 behind Kawhi Leonard. That team reached the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.
“Someone says today, ‘Is it hard to keep a young team focused?’ And I said, ‘That's the good news, I don't have a young team, I have an old team.’ These guys go to work every day. They know what the grind is. And we will prepare like crazy to play Nevada.”
By old, he’s referring to the three transfers who have led SDSU back into the national spotlight. Guard Malachi Flynn, a junior transfer from Washington State, is leading the Aztecs with 16.6 points per game. Big man Yanni Wetzell, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt, is averaging 11.9 points and 5.9 rebounds. Another grad transfer, guard KJ Feagin (Santa Clara), is averaging 8.1 points.
Nevada is in its first season under coach Steve Alford, who was fired at UCLA midway through last season. The Aztecs are well aware of Alford from his six seasons coaching MWC rival New Mexico. The Wolf Pack is second in the MWC in 3-point percentage.
“That's my number one concern, that we find a way to contest those 3s,” Dutcher said. “Because we all know college basketball, if they step up and make 12, 14, 15 3s, it's going to be a long day.” So while fans have fun with “The Map,” Dutcher and his players will try to keep the Aztecs on it.
“I always say, it’s a fragile formula. Winning and losing, the separation between those two is so very small that if we want to continue to win, we have to stay on the very top of our game,” the coach said. “We can’t have a mediocre performance. If we do, we’ll be punished for it, just like any college basketball team.”
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