The Aztecs are heading into the 2023 NCAA tournament with vindication on their mind. Last years 72-69 overtime loss to Creighton is well in the rear view mirror, but a repeat performance would be demoralizing. The Aztecs were in command of last years game, leading by eight with nearly three minutes to go and collapsed losing in overtime. The College of Charleston is coming in as a 12 seed with a 31-3 record. Beside their two in conference losses, their only other loss was to North Carolina in non conference.
The Aztecs and the Mountain West are out for some respect and redemption as all the tourney teams last year shot blanks in their early tourney departure. On paper, the Aztecs and the other Mountain West tourney teams look pretty good heading into the first round. Three wins wouldn’t be out of the question. As for the Aztecs, athleticism should benefit them as they head into the tourney fresh off of a conference tournament championship. Despite the long trip to Orlando, expect the Aztecs to be rested, calm and collected with something to prove. The Aztecs book of work is more impressive than Charleston, owning victories against BYU, Stanford, Ohio State and fellow conference tourney teams Utah State, Boise State and Nevada. The Aztecs have the edge with rebounding, as they dominate both ends of the court and with their stifling defense. Charleston will not have played a team with the Aztecs defensive prowess. The Cougars under coach Pat Kelsey out of the Colonial Athletic Association own an impressive record, but when one slices down the quality of teams played, one quickly sees it is lacking in depth or success. Several key wins of note include Virginia Tech, Colorado State and Kent State, also a tourney team. The Cougars field a good team, but they may just not have been exposed to a deep level of talent that they will see against the Aztecs. The Cougars average nearly 80 points a game lead by a team effort of play led by 7th year grad student Dalton Bolon. The 24 year old averages over 12 points a game and is the emotional leader. He is supported by Forward Ben Burnam, Guards Reyne Smith, Ryan Larson and Forward Pat Robinson III, who has a unique shooting style.
March Madness is upon us. Each team has earned their way into the tournament based on both a successful season and conference tournament wins. Cinderella might appear just as easy as a Goliath. Who will step up between the Cougars and Aztecs? Pride runs deep with both programs, It’s just a bit more depth, talent and athleticism on the Aztecs front. Expect the Aztecs to play a steady, consistent game full of defensive pressure and come away with a 74-67 respectful victory.