SAN DIEGO — After winning two games last week and improving to 15-0, the San Diego State University Aztecs men’s basketball team moved up to number seven in the national rankings.
The Aztecs have achieved their highest ranking since Jan. 20, 2014, when they also hit the number seven spot. They beat Fresno State at home last Wednesday and then went to Utah State and beat the Aggies, who were picked to win the conference crown for the second year in a row.
The team has also jumped out to their second-best start in school history. Only the 2010 team that started 20-0 had a better start.
“Rankings don’t really mean anything,” junior forward Matt Mitchell said. “Everybody goes up there and laces their shoes up the same time and we’re not worried about rankings. We’re worried about going and playing basketball and winning games.”
The Aztecs have done exactly that. With a perfect record, SDSU ranks seventh in the country in both the writers’ and coaches’ polls.
“I don’t try and think about it too much,” junior guard Malachi Flynn said. “I’m just trying to get one game at a time because I know if you lose one you can drop all the way out of the rankings or drop super low. So for me, it’s just one game at a time.”
Head coach Brian Dutcher says experience plays a big factor in the team’s success. The Aztecs have two fifth year transfers in Yanni Wetzell and KJ Feagin. Leading scorer Flynn joins fellow juniors Jordan Schakel and Mitchell, two players who’ve grown in the program and average double digits in scoring.
“I’ve said it since the start of the year, I wanted an experienced team so we could have a really good November and December and that worked out and now we’re carrying that experience into the conference season,” Dutcher said.
The Aztecs have also done it with defense. The team ranks fifth in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just under 57 points per game.
SDSU also ranks number one in the NET metric — the main factor the selection committee uses to determine the NCAA tournament field.
“Everybody bought in during the summer and that’s just what it was,” Mitchell said. “We told each other that we were all for one, one for all — and that’s what it was. We bought into the culture, the program, what the coaches were telling us, and we’re here now.”
The Aztecs’ schedule doesn’t get any easier starting this week, with conference rival Wyoming in Laramie at 7,000 feet of elevation.
“It’s just crazy on how quick you’re able to get tired. But I just tell my teammates to stay mentally focused and stay locked in and stay together,” Mitchell said.
It’s a game plan that so far seems to be working quite well.
The team’s next home game is Saturday, when the Aztecs host Boise State. On Monday afternoon, SDSU announced tickets for that game are sold out.