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Aztecs are in stage of accepting NCAA Tournament’s cancellation

March 14, 2020


Kareem Jones

Aztec players react awaiting the result of a play during its historic 2019-20 season that way cut short due to coronavirus.

The NCAA announced Thursday its annual spectacle, the NCAA Tournament, has been cancelled due to efforts to combat COVID-19.

Thursday was filled with heartbreak, sadness and a whole lot of processing among players, coaches, fans and the sports world.

At 30-2 and arguably in midst of the greatest season in program history, San Diego State’s season abruptly ended.

Just like that.

The ‘what ifs’ could stay in the minds of Aztec nation for a long time.

Will SDSU ever see a team as good as this 2019-20? How far would they have gone in the NCAA Tournament? Sweet Sixteen? The program’s first Elite Eight or Final Four appearance?

We will never know.

A day after one of the craziest days in sports history, head coach Brian Dutcher and his Aztecs are in the stage of accepting it and moving on.

Dutcher held a meeting with each of his players individually the morning after the news was announced.

“When they shut down every sport in the country and around the world, there’s not a lot to have to explain to them,” Dutcher said. “They understand the seriousness of the coronavirus and the fact that they couldn’t play this event. There was hope that they might suspend it and be able to play the later game. But when the NCAA decided to cancel, I think they all understood that. They’re just trying to get over it now.”

Transfers like KJ Feagin, Yanni Wetzell and Malachi Flynn are ones who Dutcher feels particularly sorry for.

The three came to SDSU with the intention of winning and going to the Big Dance.

When the news was fresh and emotions were raw, Feagin tweeted “I hate leaving it up to a ‘what if.”

Later Thursday night, he posted on Instagram “I’m numb. I’m hurting. I gave my all and then some. So sorry I couldn’t bring the natty back.”

But Friday morning was a different story.

Dutcher said Feagin came into the Fowler Athletic Center “full of love.”

The reality of life has sunk into the minds of these Aztecs — there are things that are bigger than basketball.

With all changes/cancellations in the past 48 hours, maybe there was a sliver of hope that the NCAA would postpone instead of cancel the tournament?

Not in Dutcher’s eyes.

He’s already got his sights on next season.

“My mind is twisted to okay, I gotta get next year’s team right,” the USA Today national coach of the year said. “Who’s available? Who have I got to recruit? My focus is already on next year, because there’s nothing I can do about this year at this point.”

Senior forward Nolan Narain posted on Instagram with the mindset he took his last dribble on a college basketball court.

“Dear Basketball, Throughout all of the ups and downs, wins and losses thank you for always allowing me to be a part of something much bigger than myself. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to attend one of the best universities in the world. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to travel the world and experience things that I never would have been able to without you. Thank you for teaching me the importance of hard work, dedication and teamwork. Last but not least thank you for giving me the opportunity to create memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. It’s extremely hard to let something go after you’ve dedicated your life to it, but unfortunately the ball stops bouncing for everyone at some point.???”

None of the SDSU players have been made available to the media since the NCAA Tournament was cancelled.

“They’re all pretty accepting, they’re all young adults, and they know this is the real world,” Dutcher said. “When they shut down every sport around the world, I think they’re smart enough to know that there was very little choice that anybody had in the matter.”

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