It’s heady stuff being part of the NCAA Tournament, and the floor where San Diego State will be playing is full of history, moments of which the young Aztecs are well aware.
Mindful of the moment, coach Brian Dutcher urged his team to focus this week, while also giving them time to tour Hinkle and let off some steam, within the restrictions of COVID-19 protocols.
“I don’t want you to be out here and not enjoy what you’re doing, but we have to focus,” he told them at practice. “We have to get better today.”
The Aztecs (23-4) bring a 14-game winning streak into the tournament, while Syracuse (16-9) fell in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament to Virginia.
Junior guard Buddy Boeheim leads the Orange with 17.1 points per game, while Alan Griffin and Quincy Guerrier each add more than 14 points a game.
The Aztecs will make their 13th appearance in the tournament, with a 6-12 all-time record.
Dutcher has been on the Aztec sidelines for 15 of the program’s 18 tournament games and all six victories. This is his second NCAA appearance as a head coach.
Syracuse, though unranked this season, has a more storied history. The Orange will be making their 41st tournament appearance, and have made it to the Sweet 16 nearly half of those times – 19.
They’ve taken nine trips to the Elite Eight and six to the Final Four. They won the championship in 2003.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs have been saluting a little history of their own this week, keeping last year’s seniors in their thoughts, tweeting at them that they “deserved a chance at the dance.”
SDSU was 30-2 and bound for a high seed in the tournament when officials canceled the event due to pandemic.
“Its been a long time coming since last year,” junior Adam Seiko told XTRA 1360. “This is a moment that we’ve all been waiting for.”