For head coach Brian Dutcher, the goal was simple, and with San Diego State’s first-round elimination from the NCAA Tournament, the Aztecs fell short.
“Obviously, we’re disappointed that we didn’t make a deeper run in March,” he said.
SDSU’s 78-62 loss to Syracuse Friday brought a remarkable two-season run to a close, in which the program has enjoyed a 53-7 record.
The onset of the pandemic shut the 2019-20 team that went 30-2 out of the canceled NCAA Tournament. So this year’s team carried the hopes of the players who didn’t get the chance to experience March Madness last year – including Malachi Flynn, KJ Feagin and Yanni Wetzel – along with their own.
Now seniors Matt Mitchell, Jordan Schakel, Trey Pulliam, Terrell Gomez and Joshua Tomaić are set to depart after experiencing a different form of March disappointment, as they were overpowered by Syracuse.
“This loss hurts, but my career as an Aztec as been amazing,” Mitchell said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I think coming in, I think chose the right school.”
Shakel cited “great moments” with the team, and expressed how he felt “extremely grateful for them, you know taking me, letting me be a part of this family for four years.”
Mitchell became the first Aztec to earn honors as Mountain West Conference Player of the Year and the conference tournament’s most outstanding player. He also is just the third player in SDSU history to record career totals in excess of 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 100 steals.
Schakel ranked third nationally in three-point field goal percentage at 46.7% and earned second-team all-conference honors. For his Aztec career, he also scored more than 1,000 points.
Pulliam, a community college transfer, led San Diego State in assists this season, with 3.4, and posted three consecutive double-digit scoring games for the first time.
Gomez, a graduate transfer and leading scorer at Cal State Northridge, averaged 8.8 points and 2.3 assists with SDSU. Tomaić, a transfer from Maryland, enjoyed his best game in February against San Jose State, as he scored 12 and added seven rebounds.
Set to return are juniors Aguek Arop, Nathan Mensah and Adam Seiko, sophomore Keshad Johnson and freshmen Lamont Butler and Keith Dinwiddie.
One person whose future is unclear? Dutcher. Pundits say he’s a candidate for the vacant Minnesota job, and as his father Jim Dutcher coached there, he has deep ties. Dutcher refused to comment on the speculation while his team’s season continued.