Lamont Butler, San Diego State Aztecs

Falling short of the championship, the San Diego State Aztecs plan to lead the Mountain West and make another NCAA Tournament run.

As is tradition, CBB Review again ranks the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. We will reveal the next team each day until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.

The San Diego State Aztecs lost two seniors to the NBA, two to graduation, and four to the transfer portal. The good news is that three of the starters are returning. Coach Brian Dutcher has added some talent from the Transfer Portal and a couple of freshmen that could immediately impact the team.

With the addition of USC’s Reese Dixon-Waters, he is set to come in and replace Matt Bradley immediately. Keshad Johnson is transferring to Arizona, and Nathan Mensah joins the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA. Jay Pal is coming in to soak up the minutes from Campbell. It seems to be a position battle between him and Jaedon Ledee for that prominent man position.

With the impressive run last year, the Aztecs will likely fall short this year. This team can fully dominate the MWC with its coaching and defense. There is talent and experience here. This team is rejuvenating with some incoming freshmen and reinventing itself with the transfer portals.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach:  Brian Dutcher (7th season)

2022-23 record: 32-7 (15-3)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to UConn, 76-59, in NCAA Championship game

Notable departures: Matt Bradley (Graduated), Keshad Johnson (Transferred to Arizona), Nathan Mensah (NBA), Adam Seiko (Graduated), Aguek Arop (Graduated to SDSU Coaching Staff)

Notable nonconference games:  at BYU (Nov. 10), vs. Saint Mary’s (Nov. 17), vs. California (Nov. 25), at Gonzaga (Dec. 29)

Projected Rotation

PG: Lamont Butler (6-2, 200, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 8.8 PPG, 3.2 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 34.2 3P%

SG: Darrion Trammell (5-10, 175, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 9.8 PPG, 2.9 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG

SF: Reese Dixon-Water (6-5, 210, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 9.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 43.8 FG% (USC)

PF: Micah Parrish (6-6, 180, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 7.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.6 APG, 0.7 SPG, 35.3 3P% 

C: Jay Pal (6-9, 190, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 12.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.5 BPG, 58.0 FG% (Campbell)

6: Jaedon LeDee (6-9, 240, Gr.-Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 7.9 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 53.5 FG%, 48.9 FG% 

7:  BJ Davis (6-1, 170, Fr.)

247Sports Composite No. 160 rated recruit

8: Miles Byrd (6-7, 175, So.)

2022-23 stats: 4.3 PPG, 0.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 53.8 FG% 

9: Elijah Saunders (6-8, 240, So.)

2022-23 stats: 0.9 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.5 APG

10: Ryan Schwarz Jr (6-1, 175, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: N/A

11: Demarshay Johnson Jr. (6-9, 210, Fr.)

2022-23 stats: 0.9 PPG, 0.6 RPG, 0.1 APG, 60.0 FG%

12:Miles Heide (6-8, 200, Fr.)

247Sports Composite 3-star rated recruit

San Diego State Aztecs MVP: Lamont Butler

He’s a player known for a few buzzer-beating shots for SDSU in a handful of games. His biggest buzzer-beater and most memorable is the one that sent home Florida Atlantic in the NCAA tournament. Lamont Butler is a star for this San Diego State team. He lit up the Mountain West Conference as the top 10 in 13 categories. Butler was one of the starters who led the conference in games, as six players for SDSU played in 39 games. By himself, he was first in personal fouls (106) with aggressive defensive play, second in steals (57), seventh in assists (126), seventh in steals per game (1.5), and seventh in turnovers (79). Of course, the other categories where he ranked highly involved advanced defensive categories.

While Butler is a defensive juggernaut, he has a significant role to fill as the newcomers from the transfer portal and incoming freshmen must learn the Aztec way. His grittiness and leadership will be tested this year as he will be a divining rod for Coach Dutcher. Looking to repeat as the MWC all-defensive team, Butler also looks to move from third-team all-MWC to second or even first-team. Butler is a creative and all-in player for SDSU. He trusts his teammates to almost a detriment to make the proper cut, find the right spot, and help him out. Butler will be called on to control the tempo, set up plays, and discover shots for himself and his team. His experience will significantly boost this team as players rotate in and out of the lineup. Butler will be locked in play-in and play-out on and on and off the floor.

San Diego Aztecs make-or-break player: Reese Dixon-Waters

Reese Dixon-Water is potentially sliding into a position to lead this team in scoring. Coming from a more significant conference and a dominant team, he could destroy the interior defenses of the Mountain West. With Waters’ size, he will be able to create shots easily. Beyond that, he can shine with his ability to assist and move his teammates into better scoring positions. Waters’ wants to succeed and knows how to create shots for himself and his teammates. He can score from anywhere but prefers to change tempo, jump-stop, or go up and under for the easy points. This fits perfectly into this system.

Reese Dixon-Waters was the Pac-12 sixth man of the year last year. Being a talented player, he is stepping into a role where he could quickly see more than 28 minutes a game. At the same time, Coach Dutcher is not one to over-extend players, with the most average minutes played last year being 27. The slight uptick and the style of San Diego State basketball fits into his area as he can force the issue and end up at the free-throw line.

Key analytic: Adjusted Tempo

A point of pride for the San Diego State Aztecs is lower-scoring and more defensive games. Surprisingly, they played faster than expected, ranking as the 264th slowest pace of play. With this in mind, the expectation is that this team would heavily use 3-pointers to achieve success. The Aztecs are having so much success because of how slow the pace is that the 3-point rate for both rates is ranked 281st for the team and 278th for its opponents. This is important because the slow pace also gave the San Diego State team the 3rd best 3-point defense in the nation last year.

This is unlikely to change, except maybe to be slowed down even further. There is only one player on this team to average double-digits, Jay Pal, as a transfer from Campbell. The conference improvement would likely lower his average, while Reese Dixon-Waters or Micah Parrish are likelier to be this team’s lone double-digit scorer.

San Diego State Aztecs 2023-24 projections

Projected conference finish: 1st in the Mountain West Conference

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Elite 8 Exit

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