Aztecs Joshua Tomaić, left, and Trey Pulliam, right, return for the upcoming season, starting Tuesday. Here, they closed out the 2020-21 regular season home schedule against Boise State at Viejas Arena. Photo credit: Derrick Tuskan via goaztecs.com

San Diego State basketball relied on standouts like Malachi Flynn, Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel during their recent period of dominance in the Mountain West.

But now they’re all gone and Brian Dutcher knows the trio, along with their predecessors, have set the bar high.

“We know what the standard is — to win the conference and hang a banner,” head coach Brian Dutcher said. “Whatever your best season is, that’s what the expectation has become.”

His team begins their regular season Tuesday, welcoming UC Riverside to Viejas Arena, as the Aztecs attempt to defend their MW conference and tournament titles.

They expect to be led by seniors Trey Pulliam – who returns due to the NCAA option for an extra year of eligibility to compensate for dealing with COVID-19 restrictions last year – Nathan Mensah and Matt Bradley, a newcomer.

The Aztecs offered a hint of what’s to come last week in a 65-44 exhibition win against St. Katherine at Viejas.

Bradley, a transfer from Cal, scored a game-high 15 points, while Mensah had a double double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

The challenges will come fast and furious once the season is underway. SDSU travels to Utah to play Brigham Young Friday, hosts Arizona State Nov. 18 and a week later faces Georgetown in a Wooden Legacy game on Thanksgiving.

And those are just the non-conference obstacles. In a pre-season poll, media members picked the Aztecs to finish second behind Colorado State in an improved MW.

“In my fifth year as head coach, this is the deepest the league has ever been,” Dutcher said.

Tuesday’s tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Viejas – a full Viejas by the way, as the Show returns with the end to COVID crowd restrictions.

Pulliam couldn’t be happier.

“When I first came (to SDSU), Viejas used to be crazy,” the guard said. “The vibe, the fans, they were crazy, some of the best in the country, so to be able to play in front of them and to give them a show, it means a lot.”

Show comments