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San Diego State: Experience Fuels Final Four RuN

Veterans Spark Surprising Aztecs

Flashy rotations led by highly coveted freshmen dominated college basketball for a brief time. Teams who had a wealth of talent tore through the competition. However, since the emergence of the transfer portal, teams across college basketball are getting older.

Most March Madness expert picks came nowhere close to predicting the 2023 NCAA Tournament’s Final Four: No. 3 UConn, No. 5 Miami, No. 5 San Diego State and No. 9 Florida Atlantic. One characteristic is common among the four teams – experience.

Matt Bradley #20 of the San Diego State Aztecs
Matt Bradley #20 of the San Diego State Aztecs | Kevin sabitus/getty images/afp

San Diego State has the most battled-tested roster in the Final Four. The Aztecs would have likely fallen short of this deep run without their unparalleled experience. Here’s how San Diego State’s veteran-led group could impact your March Madness predictions.

Also check on these NCAAB betting lines.

Final Four Full of Vets

Since the one-and-done era picked up steam over the last 15 years, we have gotten used to seeing freshmen dominate the NCAA Tournament. However, this year is an exception. This Final Four is full of experience with few freshmen present.

Guard Nicholas Boyd of Florida Atlantic and forward Donovan Clingan of UConn are the only starting freshmen. However, both are redshirts, meaning no true freshman will start in the Final Four. The final weekend of play also lacks elite recruiting. There is no starter that was a former top-50 recruit among the final teams. UConn’s guard Jordan Hawkins has the highest ranking at 51st nationally in the 2021 class, per 247 Sports.

San Diego State takes experience to another level. The Aztecs’ nine-man rotation has seven seniors. They also have four fifth-year seniors with guards Matt Bradley and Adam Seiko and forwards Nathan Mensah and Aguek Arop. Guards Lamont Butler and Micah Parrish are the “young ones.” Both are juniors with more than 90 games played in their careers.

— Julian Del Gaudio (@JulianDelGaudio) March 27, 2023

Of course, veteran-led teams make runs. These used to be the squads that won most NCAA Tournaments. However, SDSU’s level of experience is unheard of. Not many teams have a deep rotation like the Aztecs. Plus, four players were able to return for a fifth season due to an extra year of eligibility following the 2019-20 season impacted by COVID-19.

We often hear of invaluable vets, but how does it impact games? Here’s how the Aztecs’ group of seniors could impact your March Madness picks.

Calming Force

Four- or five-year players have seen everything. They have been there and done that, meaning they can easily adjust within a game. For example, an opposing team could switch to a 1-3-1 zone after playing man for the entire game. A team like San Diego State has no problem adjusting most of the time. A player like Bradley, who has played in over 150 career games, has seen plenty of zone defenses throughout his career.

Veteran teams usually have a sense of calmness. They remain steady and never look shaken. The Aztecs did exactly that in the Sweet 16 against No. 1 Alabama and in the Elite Eight against No. 6 Creighton. SDSU was outscored 22-9 in the first seven minutes of the second half against Alabama. The Aztecs outscored the Crimson Tide 34-19 in the final 13 minutes, leading to the 71-64 win.

San Diego State did more of the same against Creighton. It trailed 41-34 with 13:14 on the clock. The Aztecs weathered the storm, going on a 23-15 run to end the game. SDSU never looks rattled and consistently plays disciplined basketball.

Lead guards Butler and Darrion Trammell are perfect examples. The sportsbook has Trammell as the third choice to win the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player (+1200).

SDSU’s odds to win March Madness should not be taken lightly. This team has a great chance to cut down the nets on Monday. NCAA lines have the Aztecs as the second choice to win the national championship (+375).

San Diego State is an interesting case study that could impact college basketball going forward. Experienced teams typically win the national championship. In fact, the last two champions had at least two starting seniors. The Aztecs could take it to another level. If San Diego State captures a national title, teams could look to follow suit by adding more veterans via the transfer portal.

Don’t expect Saturday’s Final Four spotlight to be too bright for the Aztecs’ steady group. Las Vegas odds favor San Diego State’s senior-led squad by two points against Florida Atlantic.

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