College Basketball: Are the Aztecs Really For Real?

The San Diego State Aztecs are the last remaining undefeated team in NCAA basketball. With a pristine 24-0 record after coming into the season as a non-factor, they’re now on track to be a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

After ignoring them for the first few weeks of the season, voters finally took notice of SDSU and ranked them 25th in the nation. But what, exactly, did the voters notice? Was it the Aztecs’ 59-57 win over over then 3-7 San Jose State, a game in which they shot 31.7% from the floor?

The following week they moved up five spots to #20 on the strength of…not having played all week. Then it was another five-spot jump thanks to a 92-48 win over San Diego Christian of the NAIA and an 80-52 win over unranked Utah.

And here we are in mid February and they’re ranked #4 in the nation despite having not faced — much less beaten — a ranked team. Their two biggest wins came in late November, when they beat Creighton and Iowa — now ranked #23 and #21 respectively, but then unranked — in the Las Vegas Invitational. Is this the stuff 1 seeds are made of?

Yes, they shoot the 3 about as well as anyone, as their 38.8% clip ranks 11th in the country. They also play extremely tough defense. But according to ESPN, the Aztecs have done it against the 122nd toughest schedule in the nation.

In a year when the title seems up for grabs, it would be great to see an out-of-nowhere upstart with just six tournament wins in its entire history run off six in a row to win the whole thing. But SDSU is gonna have to beat at least a few nationally ranked teams to do it, and thus far, they’ve yet to prove they can.

Here’s a look at highlights from this week’s college basketball schedule on Sling:

Tuesday, February 11
Michigan State Spartans (16-8) vs #22 Illinois Fighting Illini (16-7)
9pm ET on ESPN
Falling 77-68 to Michigan, the Spartans shot just 33.3% from the floor Saturday, en route to their third straight loss, dropping them out of the top 25 and into a tie for 4th in the Big Ten. Illinois’ Ayo Dosunmu had team highs in points, 16, and assists, 4, but made just 5 of 17 from the floor as the Illini lost to Maryland 75-66.

New Mexico Lobos (17-8) vs #4 San Diego State Aztecs (24-0)
11pm ET on ESPN2
After dropping five of six, the Lobos got a much needed win on Saturday, as they crushed Wyoming 97-68 behind Corey Manigault’s 28 points and 9 rebounds. The Aztecs stayed undefeated with their 89-74 win over Air Force on Saturday, with Malachi Flynn posting a 17-8-7.

Wednesday, February 12
#23 Creighton Bluejays (18-6) vs #10 Seton Hall Pirates (18-5)
6:30pm ET on FS1
Marcus Zegarowski, younger brother of NBA veteran Michael Carter-Williams, had a team high 23 points Saturday in the Bluejays’ 94-82 win over St John’s. Myles Powell scored a team high 19 points to lead the Pirates to a 70-64 win over ‘Nova.

Thursday, February 13
#16 Colorado Buffaloes (19-5) vs #17 Oregon Ducks (18-6)
9pm ET on ESPN
The Buffaloes outscored Stanford 59-41 in the second half to wipe out an 11-point half-time deficit en route to a 81-74 win on Saturday. McKinley Wright IV scored a game high 21. The Ducks were up 10 early in the second half on Saturday, but a 10-point run by Oregon State set the stage for a 63-53 loss. Payton Pritchard had a game high 16 points, but made just 7-of-21 from the floor, including 1-of-8 from 3-point land.

Saturday, February 15
Oklahoma Sooners (15-8) vs #3 Kansas Jayhawks (20-3)
Noon ET on ESPN
Kristian Doolittle went off on Saturday, scoring 27 points on 9-of-15 shooting and pulling down 12 rebounds to lead the Sooners to a 69-59 win over West Virginia. Udoka Azubuike had 20 points and 15 boards, while Devon Dotson had 18 points, 6 boards and 11 dimes on Saturday to lead the Jayhawks to a 60-46 win over Texas Christian. It was Kansas’ eighth straight win.

#5 Louisville Cardinals (21-3) vs Clemson Tigers (11-12)
4pm ET on ACC Network
The Cards notched their tenth straight win on Saturday, as Jordan Nwora went 22-7 in the team’s 80-73 win over Virginia. After leading Notre Dame by as much as 7 early in the second half on Sunday, the Tigers lost 61-57. Alex Hemenway came off the bench to score a team high 16 points in just 19 minutes.

#9 Maryland Terrapins (19-4) vs Michigan State Spartans (16-8)
6pm ET on ESPN
The Terps rolled Friday to a 75-66 win over Illinois behind Anthony Cowan Jr’s 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists. After starting out as the pre-season #1, the Spartans have fallen out of the rankings thanks to a 3-5 record since their January 9 win over Minnesota. MSU is just 2-3 against ranked teams.

Sunday, February 16
#15 Villanova Wildcats (17-6) vs Temple Owls (12-11)
1pm ET on ESPN
The Wildcats suffered their third straight loss on Saturday, falling 70-64 to Seton Hall, despite a game high 22 points from Saddiq Bey. The Owls overcame a 17-point deficit at the half to tie the game and send it into overtime, where Quinton Rose scored 10 of his game high 25 points, including his team’s first 9 points of the period by hitting four straight jumpers.

Stats through Monday, courtesy ESPN and SRCBB