It’s time to go dancing for San Diego State’s basketball team and it does so minus two left feet.
Two losses, well, yes.
While that’s a bummer after the Aztecs rattled of a school-record 26 straight wins, there’s no need to discount what the future might hold in the NCAA Tournament.
“(It’s) the greatest time of the year,” SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said.
Kids racing down the stairs on Christmas morning might disagree. But there’s little argument the Aztecs (30-2) will be sprinting toward the Big Dance once they learn their opponent, and location, on Sunday.
Many of their boosters are praying for an extended run through March Madness. It’s not crazy to think this year’s squad, which is ranked No. 6 and won the Mountain West Conference regular-season crown, is primed for success.
Although it’s amazing the amount of wins Dutch’s Dudes accumulated, others focus on the pair of losses. The Aztecs rolled snake eyes against Utah State in the MWC tournament final, after previously losing to Nevada Las Vegas.
Those two hiccups might prevent the Aztecs from being a No. 1 seed, but good luck getting Dutcher to curl up over those shortcomings.
“We lost two games by six points, and we had shots in both to tie or win the game,” Dutcher said. “We’ve got a good basketball team.”
That he does and he’s not alone in stating it. It’s a collection of players that embrace the team aspect, led by a wizard of a transfer in guard Malachi Flynn. The John R. Wooden Award finalist fled Washington State and since he’s been the apple of the eye of countless college basketball insiders.
“Coming here, this is what I wanted to do and we’re here now,” Flynn said.
The Aztecs play on thanks to Flynn’s contributions. The accolades headed his way resemble the deluge of rain that hit the region this week: MWC player of the year, MWC defensive player of the year and first-team All-MWC.
At second glance, Flynn’s arrival to Montezuma Mesa allowed the Aztecs to zoom past others — we forgot he’s also a finalist for the Bob Cousy Point Guard of the year honor.
We’re not the only one trying to catch our breath by listing Flynn’s accomplishments after he averaged 17.6 points, 5.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds a game.
Flynn, too, is exhaling after the Aztecs’ exhilarating run that revived The Show and once again made a game ticket a hot commodity.
“It’s nice to get a little rest,” Flynn said of the respite between the MWC final and the NCAA. “We’re all a little beat up from the three (MWC tournament) games, whether it’s little sprains or just little things here and there. It will be nice to have that week and half off before we hit the road again.”
The Aztecs’ two losses could be a blessing. Instead of being the top seed in a region far from Southern California, just maybe they stay closer to home as a No. 2 seed and play at the Staples Center.
“Matchups are everything,” said Dutcher, Steve Fisher’s longtime assistant before moving over a chair in 2017. “It doesn’t matter where you play.”
What counts is going undefeated in the NCAA, which obliterates the sting of not doing so in the regular season. SDSU hopes to get hot while getting its groove on.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports