Monday night was a difficult pill to swallow for many of us San Diegans as we watched the San Diego State Aztecs fall in the National title game to UConn.

I could give you an in-depth breakdown of how SDSU’s lack of perimeter and shooting finally caught up to them or how UConn could command the inside and post with great play from Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan.

But there is no need to do that, as SDSU Head Coach Brian Dutcher said it best in a postgame interview, “This is a really good team that beat us tonight. Like I said, if we find a team that will beat us, we’ll tip our cap to them. They’re a deserving national champ. But I love my team, and I love my locker room.”

For some out there, SDSU’s loss will be remembered as another heartbreak of San Diego sports. A painful memory.

But I urge you to think differently.

The 2022-2023 SDSU basketball team was not only memorable, special, and at times unbelievable, but has more than likely created a ripple effect that will change this basketball program forever.

This entire tournament run, SDSU never blinked or looked rattled, not when they trailed Charleston by seven, Alabama by 10, or FAU by 14. Even when they trailed by as much as 16 on Monday night, the Aztecs were able to cut the lead to six and put serious fear in every UConn fan in the nation with 5:57 to play.

The group led by seniors Matt Bradley, Jaedon LeDee, and other studs such as Lamont Butler, Keshad Johnson, and Nathan Mensha not only have created moments that will be etched into San Diego sports lore for the rest of time but also avenged the shortcomings of past Aztec teams led by names like Kawhi Leonard, Xavier Thames, and Michael Flynn (all of whom were bounced in the Sweet 16).

But what they have done, knowingly or unknowingly, is potentially changed the course of the SDSU basketball program moving forward.

With their spectacular play over the last month, the Aztecs have undoubtedly become a brighter hot spot for Southern California high school recruits and those in the transfer portal.

Don’t believe me? Before SDSU’s game vs. FAU, Coach Dutcher told the media he had been having extensive phone calls with players in the transfer portal. Why? Because players see the program Dutcher and SDSU have built.

As for high school commits, it’s fair to expect an uptick in high-profile signings to come SDSU’s way. With both USC and UCLA heading to the BIG 10 and SDSU’s name gaining traction to head to the PAC-12, the Aztecs now not only possess a program whose current success is comparable to them but also geographically more appealing.

Wanna stay on the west coast? Don’t want to travel to Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, etc., for every road game? Play for a program proven to win, a coach who is arguably one of the best in the country? All compelling and bonafide remarks SDSU can now make to recruits largely because of what this year’s team accomplished.

Of course, all of us here wanted to see SDSU bring home that NCAA title, but it should not diminish or take away from what this team was and has accomplished this season.

In a postgame interview, Keshad Johnson told reporters, “Hopefully everyone else is proud of us.”

I think I speak for millions of us here in SD when I say we are unbelievably proud and thank you for the excitement, energy, smiles, and buzzer beaters you helped bring to this city. No one will ever forget the magic of this Aztec team.

Vol. 39, No. 15 - Thursday, April 13, 2023

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