San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Preview: SDSU vs UConn: Round 3, and the history behind it

A rematch of last year’s National Championship tips off on Thursday
Chinedu Nwoffiah
San Diego State Men’s basketball team huddles during their quarterfinals game against UNLV on March 14. at Thomas & Mack Center

For the second straight year, the No. 5 seed San Diego State Aztecs have advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. 

Their matchup? The No. 1 seed University of Connecticut Huskies.

Based on the round of 64 and 32, Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher seems content with running the same starting lineup of AP All-American third-team Jaedon LeDee, two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Lamont Butler, Darrion Trammell, Jay Pal and Micah Parrish. 

This powerhouse lineup has a 20-point scorer in LeDee, defensive stoppers in Trammell and Butler, and solid scoring wings via Parrish and Pal. 

Coming off the bench for the Aztecs has been typically Reese Waters, as well as sophomores Miles Byrd and Elijah Saunders. Occasionally, freshman Miles Heide will get some minutes.

UConn head coach Dan Hurley has quite the squad this year. Coming off a national title – in which they beat the Aztecs – they are looking to repeat, something that hasn’t happened since Florida in 2006-07.

While the Huskies’ lineup is diverse, it’s championed by guard Tristen Newton and center Donovan Clingan. 

Newton, the AP All-American first-team guard, averages over 15 points and almost seven assists per game. He is the number one choice and their floor general on offense. 

Don’t be fooled though, Cam Spencer, Alex Karaban and Stephon Castle all average over 10 points per game while contributing in different ways.

Clingan, the 7 feet 2 inches sophomore, is ranked 8 in the nation in blocks, at 2.42 per game. He also joins the other four starters in scoring over 10 points per game, 12.8 to be exact.

As a team, on offense, they average over 81 points per game. On defense, they allowed under 64 points per game. That’s good for ranking 21 and 12 in the nation respectively. 

Some statistics to note: NET ranking for UConn and SDSU are 2 and 20 respectively, making both these teams powerhouses in the tournament.

Going off that, according to KenPom, when adjusted for defensive efficiency, SDSU and UConn are virtually the same per 100 possessions, where they both allow 93.5 points per game. The question for the Aztecs is if their offense will be able to pace with UConn’s.

Secondly, the Aztecs will have to fly far for the matchup, playing at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts – less than two hours from UConn’s campus. This will essentially be a home game for the Huskies.

It’s no surprise to Aztec fans that UConn is a good basketball team. It’s also no surprise to Aztec fans that this isn’t the first time these two teams have met each other in the NCAA tournament.

There’s a bit more history between these two juggernauts than meets the eye.

This will be their third matchup in the NCAA tournament, and while it isn’t much in the long run, think of it like a boxing match: every subsequent game is a sequel.

In Aztecs versus Huskies round 1, the year is 2011. 

Led by future NBA All-Star and future hall of famer Kawhi Leonard, they entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed. The Aztecs beat Northern Colorado and Temple to advance to the Sweet 16.

The Huskies, led by future NBA All-Star Kemba Walker, were seeded No. 3 and beat Bucknell and Cincinnati to advance to the Sweet 16.

While the Aztecs fought valiantly, keeping the game close and down to the wire, it was the Huskies that won and advanced, securing an eventual National Championship in 2011.

In Aztecs versus Huskies round 2, it’s the 2023 NCAA National Championship.

UConn, with four titles, was now considered one of the great college programs. The Aztecs, not so much. They had only just made it past the Sweet 16 for the first time in 2023.

It was a story of David versus Goliath, yet San Diego State was the perfect team to be there. They had already been doubted coming from a mid-major conference and had no deep-tournament experience, yet there they were playing for their first national title.

For the 2023 matchup, it was UConn’s offense versus San Diego State’s defense. Again it was the Huskies who prevailed after a late comeback by the Aztecs fell short.

Now comes round 3, the winner to be announced. 

The Aztecs are ready for UConn. 

“I think we’re just excited we get to get another crack at ’em. Obviously, they won a National Championship last year, but I feel like we were right there,” said Trammell after their win against Yale.

Whatever happens, happens. 

But Trammell worded it best: “Just to get another chance at it, I think we’re up for the opportunity. We have the team to do it.”

Tip-off is on Thursday at 4:39 p.m.

About the Contributors
Jared Knobloch, Staff Writer
Jared is a Journalism major from San Diego, California. He transferred from San Diego Mesa College, where he was Editor-In-Chief of The Mesa Press. He focuses on sports journalism, and hopes to refine his writing skills while working for the Daily Aztec. His favorite sport to watch is basketball, and other interests include working out, playing video games, and of course, shooting hoops with friends.
Chinedu Nwoffiah, Photographer