What will March Madness have in store for SDSU men in 2024?

University of San Diego's Kevin Patton Jr, executes a slam dunk. Photo by Andy Bartotto

Last year’s March Madness rewarded San Diego State University men’s basketball team – and local hoops fans overall – when the Aztecs made it all the way to the NCAA Division I championship game in recording a history-making runner-up finish in the iconic tournament.

SDSU is back again this year knocking on the door. How far will the Aztecs make it in 2024?
It shouldn’t take long to find out after SDSU, fresh off a runner-up showing in the Mountain West Conference championship game, received the No. 5 seed in the East Region
The 24th-ranked Aztecs tip-off tournament play Friday, March 22, against 12th-seeded University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB) in a first-round clash at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena in Spokane, Wash. TNT will have the television broadcast starting at 10:45 a.m. PT.

The Blazers won the American Athletic Conference tournament title in their first year in the conference.

SDSU hopes history repeats after reaching the NCAA Final as a No. 5 seed last year.
The Aztecs are no stranger to post-season play as this will be the program’s 19th overall NCAA tournament appearance, 16th at the Division I level, 11th in the last 15 years and fifth in seven seasons since head coach Brian Dutcher took over reins of the program from legendary coach Steve Fisher (1999-2017).

SDSU finished 30-2 in 2019-20 be the NCAA tournament was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Aztecs finished 32-7 last year, advancing to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2014 en route to placing second by a 76-59 score to the University of Connecticut in the national championship game.

SDSU has also participated in six NIT tournaments since joining the NCAA Division I in 1969. Previously, the Aztecs made three appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament (1957, 1967-68) and five appearances in the NAIA tournament, winning a national championship in 1941.

SDSU has won seven Mountain West tournament championships and nine regular season titles.

The Aztecs earned the No. 5 seed for this year’s MW tournament, topping No. 1 seed Utah State, 86-70, in last Friday’s semifinals after dealing fourth-seeded UNLV a 74-70 defeat in the quarterfinals to reach last Saturday’s tourney final against sixth-seeded New Mexico.

SDSU finished second after a 68-61 loss to the Lobos (26-9). The Aztecs take a 24-10 record into Friday’s NCAA tournament opener. The Lobos received the No. 11 seed in the West Region and will take on No. 6 Clemson in Friday’s opening round in Memphis, Tenn.

The Aztecs have eight players who are averaging in double digits this season, paced by Jaedon LeDee’s 32.7 per game average. Micah Parrish follows at 27.7 ppg. Rounding out this season’s top scorers are Lamont Butler (27.6 ppg), Darrion Trammell (27.6 ppg), Reese Waters (26.3 ppg), Elijah Saunders (20.0 ppg), Jay Pal (17.3 ppg) and Miles Byrd (14.0 ppg).

Rebound leaders include LeDee (8.7 rpg), Pal (4.2 rpg) and Parrish (4.1 rpg).
SDSU is averaging 74.6 ppg and 381, rpg.

The Aztecs have net positives in points (2536-2263), rebounds (1295-1137), assists (446-386), blocks (137-109) and steals (248-202) this season
LeDee poured in 25 points and had six rebounds to pace SDSU in last weekend’s MW championship game. Six other players scored in single digits. Trammell led the team with seven rebounds.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, and we should be,” Dutcher said after the championship game loss. “We wanted to hang a banner, win another Mountain West title, but it didn’t happen, but we can’t have a lingering effect over losing.

“I think we played good basketball the last three days in Vegas, and that was important heading into the NCAA tournament, which is the dream of everybody. That’s what you grow up wanting to play in.”

Torero pride
The University of San Diego men’s team went two rounds deep into this year’s West Coast Conference championship tournament. The sixth-seeded Toreros defeated eighth-seeded Pepperdine, 57-52, in the second round on March 8 before suffering a 104-79 thrashing by fourth-seeded Santa Clara in the quarterfinals on March 9.

The WCC tournament took place March 7-12 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. St. Mary’s defeated Gonzaga, 69-60, to win the men’s championship game.

USD finished its season 18-15 overall.

P.J. Hayes keyed the Toreros with 15 points in the win over Pepperdine while Wayne McKinney III dropped in 10 points. Steven Jamerson II led the team with 13 rebounds while tacking on eight points. Kevin Patton Jr. had nine points and six rebounds.

Patton keyed USD with 19 points in the season-ending loss to Santa Clara while Deuce Turner had 13 points. McKinney had 11 points and four rebounds.

McKinney paced the Toreros over the course of the season with a 30.1 scoring average, followed by Patton (26.1 ppg), Jamerson (25.8 ppg), Hayes (25.7 ppg) and Turner (25.6 ppg).

Jamerson averaged 8.1 rebounds per game as the team leader in that category.

The WCC is comprised of nine teams. St. Mary’s won the regular season league title with an imposing 15-1 record in double-round play while Gonzaga finished runner-up at 14-2. San Francisco was third at 11-5, followed by Santa Clara at 10-6, USD at 7-9, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and Portland, all at 5-11, and Pacific at 0-16.

Portland defeated Gonzaga, 67-66, in a thriller to win the WCC women’s tournament title.
The eighth-seeded Lady Toreros defeated ninth-seeded Pepperdine in the first round before exiting the tournament with a loss to No. 5 Pacific.

Lady Aztecs
The SDSU women also enjoyed a robust-win season with a 22-13 record. Included in that run was an appearance in the MW tournament championship game.

The Lady Aztecs opened tourney play with a 72-51 decision over 10th-seeded San Jose State in the first round, then promptly upset second-seeded New Mexico, 67-56, in the quarterfinals before topping No. 6 Boise State, 72-69, in the semifinals.

SDSU’s tournament odyssey ended with a 49-66 loss to national No. 19 UNLV.

Abby Prohaska (12) and Kim Villalobos (11) both hit in double digits in the win over San Jose State while Jada Lewis (14), Adryana Quezeda (14) and Villalobos (12) all scored in double figures in the win over New Mexico. Villalobos led the SDSU rebounding charge with 14 boards.

Prohaska led SDSU with 13 points and five rebounds in the championship game loss
“I’m really proud of our team,” SDSU coach Stacie Terry-Hutson said. “I know I say that a lot, but I’m just overwhelmed with emotion how we’re able to play for each other, play as hard as we are, and really proud of our defense. We’ve struggled on that side of the ball for the majority of the season, and these past two or three weeks we’ve really, really locked in.”

Red and Black
The Aztecs have retired three jersey numbers on their men’s team: Kawhi Leonard (2009-11), Milton Phelps (1937-41) and Michael Cage (1980-84).

Cage played 15 seasons in the NBA, including four seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers. A two-time WAC Player of the Year, he finished as the pro league’s rebounding leader in 1988.

A consensus second team All-American in 2011, Leonard has since won two NBA championships (2014 with the San Antonio Spurs and 2019 with the Toronto Raptors). A six-time NBA All-Star, he was the league’s steals leader in 2015.

The Los Angeles native has played for the Clippers since 2019.