Notes from the In-Between Times

First time long time! It’s been a pandemic-age since we snapped off a post on this old blog. Here are some internet sentences for your brain.

Beer for Dutch’s Horses

These next few weeks could be the final form of Brian Dutcher, San Diego State head coach.

Zeigler wrote about this last week. Ricky Pitino the Younger is a dead man walking at the University of Minnesota. Minnesota media thinks Dutch is a top candidate for the job. The Gophers will surely reach out to kick his tires at the very least.

Dutcher graciously dodged questions about it in his media appearances this week. His non-denial denials don’t assuage our hand-wringing. He could easily shoot down the rumors, and by playing it down the middle made a point of not doing so.

And why would he? It’s his alma mater. His dad coached there. His wife and his sisters were Gophers. He has lots of family in the area. He negotiated a $1 million buyout exclusively for Minnesota in his SDSU contract, instead of the $6.9 million poison pill it would cost any other school. He wants the job, philosophically if not actively.

“It’s my school,” Dutcher said of UM last September when he signed his extension.

From an Aztecs fan perspective, it’s hard to imagine wanting to leave beautiful San Diego and rocking Viejas Arena for the cold-ass Twin Cities. And stunning to picture him walking away from the successful program he and Steve Fisher built from scratch.

A successful mid-major program.

Dutcher’s current salary is $930,000 and his contract maxes out at $1.5 million in 2025. Richard Pitino is pulling down $2.46 million this year at Minnesota. So if UM poaches Dutch he’d be making at least $1 million more per year. To coach his alma mater. In the Big Ten. A million more to coach in your hometown against the likes of Michigan, Indiana and Ohio State–after 22 years in the dreary Mountain West–is pretty compelling.

Now I’m picturing Dutch spitting rhymes in the MF DOOM mask. Oh my aching hands from raking in grands and breaking in mic stands.

Dutcher has done an amazing job to keep the program humming in the Fisher mold. Last year’s team started 26-0 and was a serious Natty contender. SDSU is the back-to-back conference champ. He could fairly feel he’s done pretty close to all he can do here.

Nobody in San Diego wants him to leave. Still, if you were his agent or advisor and Minnesota came calling, you’d have to tell him to take it. SDSU can’t match $2.5 million per.

Maybe UM will want to make a splash with a bigger name, like our old buddy Eric Musselman, who also has family ties to Minnesota. Maybe midwesterners aren’t all that impressed by someone succeeding at San Diego State.

Savor this March with Dutcher’s hard-nosed Tecs. Maybe it’s not the end of an era. But it might be.

Sorry I’m trying to remove it

The men’s basketball Aztecs remained at No. 19 when the new AP Top 25 poll came out on Monday, despite a voter who mistakenly put the 3-11 USD Toreros on his ballot instead of SDSU. To compound his error, the voter had ranked SDSU at No. 20 the previous week then inexplicably dropped San Diego/SDSU to No. 25, when all the Aztecs had done in the interim was beat UNLV and clinch a conference title.

Thinking that was funny and mockable I looked up who the voter was, then snitch-tagged him in a tweet calling out his error. By online standards it was tame: “I thought people in Indiana knew hoops” was the most acerbic line of the tweet. It got a little traction and presumably the writer saw himself getting dragged in his mentions. 

As the engagement numbers crept up I increasingly regretted it. Yes, the AP ballot is public and fair game. But did I need to put that negative energy into the world? Sports journalism is a tough gig to make a living from. Maybe this person works a regular job while writing about basketball. We’re a full year into a pandemic. I have no idea what kind of experience any stranger has had or what this guy was dealing with when he made a mistake in ranking college basketball teams.

So I deleted the tweet, even though it broke a thread I liked about old oaken buckets. Please clap.

Buddy,,,, You better run the table

College basketball polls are wildly imperfect, deeply unfair and biased against teams like San Diego State. It’s crazy, to me, that SDSU is 50-6 over the past two seasons yet are ranked No. 19 like some little upstart program from a nobody conference. 

Speaking of; after winning the Missouri Valley tournament, the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers (24-4) jumped from 20 to 18 in the AP poll, passing the Aztecs (20-4). 

Only five teams ahead of SDSU in the rankings have better win-loss records, and most of those teams have more losses this season than the Aztecs have in the last two combined. Yet here the Tecs sit, barely creeping up the polls while being projected as a 7 to 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

This is old hat, par for the course, same shit different year. It ain’t fair gosh dangit. However it does highlight the distinction between SDSU and the other power program of the West, the Monsters of the Palouse, those undefeated Gonzaga Zaggie Zags. Despite getting to bully the cupcake West Coast Conference every year, GONZ gets the benefit of the doubt for their long résumé of signature wins and Final Four appearances. They haven’t won a national championship but they are perennially knocking on the door.

The Fisher/Dutcher era has been hugely successful, by local standards. Yet until the Tecs finally crack a Final Four it will be this way every year. National media regards the Mountain West as a western Missouri Valley Conference. SDSU has to win the conference tourney to avoid a dreaded 8/9 seeding or worse. 

Thank the old gods and the new for good things that still exist

The women’s soccer Aztecs went 16 months between games due to the lockdown. They finally got back on the plastic pitch and are still baller as hell. SDSU needed a scorched late strike to beat Nevada 3-2, then benefited from a howler of an own goal in cruising past Boise State 3-1.

I am SO glad for what these results represent: That SDSU Olympic-sport programs like women’s soccer weren’t eliminated during this harrowing public health crisis. I can’t imagine how difficult it’s been for the athletic department, coaches, staff members and athletes. Especially the athletes. Huge kudos and gratitude to every one of them. 

There’s a long list of things I would yell at my college-age self if I could and one of them would be: Go to some SDSU women’s soccer games you fool. They win a lot. The games are fun and don’t cost nothin’! 

The defending conference champion Aztecs are playing a shortened makeup season and have just three more home games, all later this month. Get out to the sports deck and enjoy some quality soccer playing.

In conclusion: My kingdom for a clove

This is one of my favorite songs I happened across during pandemic year. Andy Schauf is a singer-songwriter from the lands of Canada. His song “Clove Cigarette” is a nice mood and very evocative of things we’ve all been missing. The video is really cool and uses an innovative mix of technologies, including a video game engine that renders images in a kind of 3-D dot matrix.

Cheers, good health and warm wishes to you all. Here’s to green plastic chairs and tippling a few with good people.

On Jalen McDaniels

I was expecting to recap a San Diego State men’s basketball game tonight.

This is not a recap of a San Diego State men’s basketball game.

A few hours before the Aztecs were slated to tip off against Cal State Dominguez Hills, we learned of a two civil suits (one already filed, another apparently on its way) against sophomore star Jalen McDaniels, alleging that while in high school he filmed and shared sex videos without the knowledge or consent of the women involved.

There are times like this where I realize the limitations of having a blog where we like to crack jokes and take things a little less than seriously. Grappling with real world societal problems I’m not so good at, and I’m sort of at a loss for a nuanced take right now beyond, “This is some fucked up shit.”

Continue reading “On Jalen McDaniels”

Blind recap: Aztecs lose to bad Cal Berkeley 89-83

We regret to inform that none of your loyal scribes were able to watch this game then write about it — which is to say; we were unavailable, except for one of us at the game as a visiting civilian with no intention of sitting down at a computer afterwards. Which is for the best as it turns out! San Diego State lost to the University of California men’s basketball team 89-83 in Berkeley.

The loss to Pac-12 cellar-dwelling Cal drops SDSU into the college hoops wilderness. With a résumé of a 30-point loss to Iowa State, a home loss to little crosstown rival USD and this loss to a bad Cal team, the Aztecs are now 5-4 and have squandered virtually any chance of an at-large berth to the big dance. It’s Mountain West tourney champs or bust, y’all, and it’s hard to imagine this iteration putting together a miracle run like last season, even if No. 6 Nevada weren’t standing in the way.

Jalen McDaniels led the Aztecs with 20 points and Jeremy Hemsley had 19, including 5 of 6 on threes. Neither was enough to keep the Golden Bears from finishing the game on an 18-5 run over the last 3:53. Justice Sueing led Cal with 23 points.

Feel free to read the box score and weep, and here’s Mark Zeigler’s U-T gamer.

SDSU returns home to face Division II powerhouse Cal State Dominguez Hills this Wednesday in a game that is sure to be enthusiastically attended. The Aztecs then host BYU on December 22.

Game Recap: San Diego really isn’t a State, USD wins City Championship

San Diego State University, the city’s oldest institution of higher education, lost a men’s basketball game on its home floor to the University of San Diego, a private Roman Catholic college off Friars Road, undergraduate enrollment 5,855. It was a sad thing to witness.

Do any of us want to dwell unnecessarily on the ugly 73-61 loss that handed the City Championship to USD? Not me, palooka, and probably not you.

Continue reading “Game Recap: San Diego really isn’t a State, USD wins City Championship”

Game Recap: Aztecs have Normal one in win over Illinois State

Coming into this Saturday’s game against Illinois State (alma mater of Steve Fisher, who used to pass out free tickets to students in his first year as San Diego State head coach) in Normal, Illinois, it was not yet entirely clear how good this Aztecs men’s basketball team is.

We know they’re “good” but with three wins over three bad teams, one win over a good team, and two blowout losses to two very good/great teams, they had yet to make a significant impact – positive or negative – on their tournament resume.

While they have a long way to go until March, SDSU added what will probably end up being a pretty solid win with a 75-65 victory over the Redbirds and improve their season record to 5-2.

Continue reading “Game Recap: Aztecs have Normal one in win over Illinois State”

Game Recap: Luxuriously attired SDSU drops the hammer on one of the country’s worst teams

Men’s basketball’s new NET rankings, the long-awaited replacement for RPI, had a bit of a bumpy launch this week with a bizarre Top 10 and math nerds saying very unkind things about the formula. After watching the telecast of tonight’s action at Viejas Arena, I’ll give the new rankings system this: Jackson State at 349 seems … about right.

San Diego State, which debuted at 96 in NET after losing by 30 to Iowa State in Maui last week, regrouped to crush the Tigers 87-44 in a performance as pretty as the Aztecs’ turquoise Native American Heritage Month unis. Or nearly as pretty, anyway.

Continue reading “Game Recap: Luxuriously attired SDSU drops the hammer on one of the country’s worst teams”

Game Recap: Aztecs check out early in Maui, get crushed by ISU

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I need to get cooking, so I’m going to go ahead and give this Game Recap roughly the same effort as the San Diego State men’s basketball Aztecs put forth in their third and final game of the Maui Invitational.

First the good news: Despite getting stomped 87-57 by Iowa State this morning/afternoon, the Aztecs do not need to give back their impressive Tuesday win against Xavier. At least I think they don’t. Perhaps someone should consult the rule book just to be sure?

Continue reading “Game Recap: Aztecs check out early in Maui, get crushed by ISU”

Game Recap: Aztecs redeem Maui trip with memorable comeback over Xavier

A little after noon Pacific time, I was in a pretty dark place. Well, I was at work, so that goes without saying. But more so than usual even!

In my head, I was already crafting a depressing game recap about how the Aztecs were on the verge of being cast into the sea at the Maui Invitational. How the hunt for a quality nonconference win was looking grim. How one day after getting their doors blown off by No. 1 Duke, the Aztecs responded by getting their doors blown off by a team that was very decidedly not Duke.

Don’t get me wrong, Xavier is a solid Big East foe, but when you’re getting run by 19 in the first half against the Musketeers, many people would consider that time to panic.

Instead, Jalen McDaniels decided it was time to grab himself some plate lunch and fuckin’ eat.

McDaniels scored a career-high 26 points as the Aztecs roared to within three at halftime and then dominated the game’s final 15 minutes for a 79-74 win — a thrilling national TV showcase for both an NBA prospect and a team looking to build an at-large resume.

This is *not* March, but that was some good shit nonetheless.

Continue reading “Game Recap: Aztecs redeem Maui trip with memorable comeback over Xavier”