Before he became San Diego State's head coach in 2017, Brian Dutcher worked 28 seasons as Steve Fisher's assistant with the Aztecs and at Michigan. He first joined Michigan in 1989, which means he was part of the staff that brought the Fab Five to Ann Arbor.
Three decades and two time zones removed from Michigan, Dutcher assembled his 2019-20 San Diego State roster in a completely different, albeit modern, way: He brought in the best transfers he could find.
There was Malachi Flynn, the 6-foot-1 guard who starred at Washington State for two seasons but left after the Cougars went just 25-37 over that span. He sat out last year, then blossomed into an All-American (and sleeper Player of the Year) candidate for SDSU this season.
There was Yanni Wetzell, the 6-foot-10 Vanderbilt graduate transfer from New Zealand. On the worst team in the SEC last year, Wetzell came off the bench most of the time and averaged 5.9 points per game. At San Diego State, Wetzell started every game and became one of the Mountain West's premier inside scorers, averaging 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds.
There was KJ Feagin, a former volume scorer at Santa Clara who settled into a complementary role as a grad transfer, scoring 9.1 points per game.
And there were the two constants, juniors Matt Mitchell and Jordan Schakel. In their third seasons in the program, they gave the Aztecs some sense of continuity. They also became San Diego State's most accurate shooters, combining to make 115 3-pointers at a 41.8% clip.
The result: An Aztecs team that lost its top two scorers and entered the season ranked No. 97 by KenPom became college basketball's last undefeated team in 2020. San Diego State started this year a surprising 26-0 and was 30-2 when the NCAA canceled its tournament on March 12.
San Diego State came on suddenly and under the radar. The NCAA Tournament was meant to be a showcase for the Aztecs to prove they were the real deal on a national stage.
But when we look back on this season down the road, we'll see that San Diego State did enough to validate its opulent record in the regular season.