HOUSTON — Go ahead and doubt San Diego State.
Tell the fifth-seeded Aztecs they don’t stand a chance.
That No. 4-seeded Connecticut cutting down the nets Monday night is a formality.
They’ve heard this all before.
They were a popular upset pick in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
They weren’t supposed to get past Alabama or Creighton, either.
They’re still standing.
“I think we’ve been counted out in every game we’ve played in,” leading scorer Matt Bradley said on Sunday. “That’s just the makeup we have. I don’t know what attracts that. We thrive off of it. March Madness has proven that anybody can win regardless of what people think or what the numbers say.”
There have been several close calls for San Diego State (32-6) to get to this point, with four of their five tournament wins by seven points or less.
The Aztecs trailed No. 9 Florida Atlantic by 14 points in the second half on Saturday.
It needed Lamont Butler’s buzzer-beating jumper to advance to the school’s first national championship game.
Now, the Aztecs are the other team Monday night, a 7.5-point underdog to mighty UConn.
The Huskies haven’t broken a sweat yet in the dance, winning their five games by an average of 20.6 points.
They have looked invincible, thoroughly dominant.
But San Diego State insists it doesn’t fear Connecticut (30-8).
It believes it can stun the world and upset the Huskies, that it can hang with them in the paint, slow down the pace and impose its will.
It is an elite defensive team that is ranked fourth nationally in efficiency.
“We feel like we’re not like a lot of teams in the tournament. We’re special,” senior guard Darrion Trammell said. “We’re going to play defense like our life depends on it. That’s our whole motto. We feel like our chip [on our shoulder] is bigger than a lot of people in the country. We’re just going to have to let that show on Monday.”
This is an experienced team, some might say old, with seven seniors in the nine-man rotation.
Four of them are in their fifth season.
It is a group that stunned Alabama, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, and is used to winning tight games.
It is 10-1 in games decided by five points or less.
It may not win, but San Diego State won’t get pushed around.
It won’t be fazed by the moment. It believes it belongs on this stage.
“We’re not satisfied. When you keep winning these games, you just want one more, one more, one more, and I think that’s been the mentality for us,” Bradley said. “We always want to get that next game. We got a lot of seniors on this team. This is my last college game, win or loss. I don’t want to go out on a loss, and I think that’s the feeling for a lot of guys on the team.”
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