San Diego State pulls a slot in the Midwest Region in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Photo credit: Screen shot, CBS.

San Diego State, in its return to the NCAA Tournament, will face Syracuse on Friday in the opening round in Indianapolis.

The Aztecs, seeded 6th, will play the 11th seeded Orange, who have a 16-9 record, in the Midwest regional.

The draw brought caught Matt Mitchell’s attention, as he favored Syracuse so much as a child that he wore an orange headband and modeled himself after their star Carmelo Anthony.

Anthony led Syracuse to an NCAA championship in 2003.

“I couldn’t do anything but smile,” Mitchell said.

San Diego State has played Georgetown just twice, most recently in 2012, as they opened their season in a game aboard the bayfront U.S.S. Midway. The Orange won, 62-49. In the first meeting, in the second round of the 2007 NIT Tournament, the Aztecs lost 80-64.

“Hopefully this is our time to play well, shoot well and find a way to win,” Coach Brian Dutcher said of the matchup.

SDSU last appeared in the tournament in 2018. As a No. 11-seed they lost to No. 6 Houston, 67-65, in the first round. It was Dutcher’s first season as head coach.

Under retired coach Steve Fisher, they appeared in the tournament six years straight from 2010-15, with their best showings in 2011 and 2014, when they made it to the Sweet 16.

The tournament’s top seeds are Gonzaga, the overall No. 1, which will play in the West regional, Illinois in the Midwest, Baylor in the South and Michigan in the East.

The tournament starts Thursday, with the First Four games, and the first round following on Friday. The Final Four is set for April 3, and the national championship for April 5.

Because of the pandemic, all the games will be played in and around Indianapolis this year. Lucas Oil Stadium, as well as Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Hinkle Fieldhouse, Indiana Farmers Coliseum, Mackey Arena in West Lafayette and Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, will host contests.

The Mountain West conference also sent Utah State, an 11th seed in the South region. The Aggies, who the Aztecs defeated for the MW tournament crown Saturday, will play No. 6 Texas Tech.

Colorado State just missed out, but is listed as a replacement team if necessary.

Updated 5:50 p.m. March 14, 2021

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