Did San Diego State just change the game for the Pac-12 Conference?
San Diego State men’s basketball has an exquisite sense of timing. With the school being considered as a possible new member of the Pac-12, the Aztecs made a huge splash at the NCAA Tournament on Friday night, knocking out the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide.
Roll Tide Wire has more on the story:
“Alabama men’s basketball fell to San Diego State in the Sweet 16 with a final score of 71-64,” A.J. Spurr wrote. “With this loss to the No. 5 seed Aztecs, the top-seeded Crimson Tide now have an all-time record in the Sweet 16 of 1-9.
“The game was close for the full 40 minutes and Alabama even had a nine-point lead at one point in the second half, but abysmal shooting and a very physical game by San Diego State ultimately led the Tide to lose by seven.”
The win is obviously a big deal for San Diego State on its own terms. The Aztecs are in the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Yet, this win could mean so much more than just the Elite Eight and a chance to make the Final Four. Let’s discuss this:
Mar 24, 2023; Louisville, KY, USA; San Diego State Aztecs forward Jaedon LeDee (13) dunks during the second half of the NCAA tournament round of sixteen against the Alabama Crimson Tide at KFC YUM! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
San Diego State’s win is — as mentioned above — valuable in and of itself, but winning precisely when the Pac-12 is thinking about expansion could have the double-effect of vaulting SDSU into a higher tier of basketball and sports programs when the Aztecs make the (possible, not guaranteed) jump to a Power Five conference. The timing could not be better for the Aztecs.
TRANSCENDING MID-MAJOR STATUS
Mar 24, 2023; Louisville, KY, USA; San Diego State Aztecs head coach Brian Dutcher reacts during the second half of the NCAA tournament round of sixteen against the Alabama Crimson Tide at KFC YUM! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Imagine this scenario: San Diego State uses the momentum from this win and the jump to the Pac-12 to become a regular top-three seed at the NCAA Tournament, much as Gonzaga has done in the West Coast Conference.
Gonzaga is not a mid-major, even though it plays in a mid-major conference. Could SDSU make that leap based on this game and a move to the Pac-12? If so, the Pac-12 would not depend solely or substantially on Arizona as its only (or main) hope to reach the Final Four and contend for national championships.
RIVALRY WITH ARIZONA
Mar 24, 2023; Louisville, KY, USA; San Diego State Aztecs guard Lamont Butler (5) and Alabama Crimson Tide guard Jahvon Quinerly (5) battle for a loose ball during the second half of the NCAA tournament round of sixteen at KFC YUM! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s say San Diego State agrees to join the Pac-12 later this year (with the move being finalized in 2024 or 2025). UCLA’s departure would put the Pac-12 in a position where it would be very important to find a natural rival for Arizona in basketball. The Aztecs would emerge as a realistic candidate and give the conference a new tentpole game to replace Arizona-UCLA.
GONZAGA TO THE BIG 12
Mar 23, 2023; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs head coach Mark Few reacts after a play against the UCLA Bruins during the first half at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Gonzaga and the Big 12 have expressed mutual interest in each other. San Diego State going to the Pac-12 could either precede or follow a Gonzaga move to the Big 12, part of a big reshuffle in college basketball.
NETWORKING AND ALUMNI
Mar 24, 2023; Louisville, KY, USA; San Diego State Aztecs forward Jaedon LeDee (13) hugs San Diego State Aztecs forward Nathan Mensah (31) during the second half of the NCAA tournament round of sixteen against the Alabama Crimson Tide at KFC YUM! Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports
We remind you that while sports revenue matters, what also counts is the ability for Pac-12 schools to play games in Southern California, which sustains networking capacity and occasions for alumni to meet, fundraise, and expand connections. There’s a lot more to explore at The Voice of College Football on this topic.