Aztecs Picked to Win MW; Butler and Waters Honored

SDSU has been predicted to finish either first or second in the Mountain West preseason poll in each of the last 10 years.

Thursday, October 12, 2023
SDSU's Lamont Butler (5) drives between FAU defenders during 2023 Final Four game. (SDSU)
SDSU's Lamont Butler (5) drives between FAU defenders during 2023 Final Four game. (SDSU)

San Diego State men's basketball has been picked to be crowned 2023-24 conference champions in the annual Mountain West preseason media poll, the league announced Thursday morning ahead of the start of the conference's Media Day at Resorts World in Las Vegas. Senior guard Lamont Butler was named a Preseason All-Mountain West designee and Reese Waters was selected as the league's Preseason Newcomer of the Year.

The Aztecs won both the 2022-23 regular-season and conference tournament titles and then became the first program in Mountain West history to win games in the Sweet 16, Elite 8 and Final Four on its way to playing in the national championship game of the 2023 NCAA Tournament. San Diego State finished the year with a 32-7 record, the second most wins in a season in program history, and ranked No. 18 in the AP and No. 2 in the Coaches polls.

The Scarlet and Black garnered 333 points and 25 of the 31 first-place votes, from media members who regularly cover the conference, to finish in front of Boise State and its 299 points and four first-place votes. New Mexico has been predicted to finish in third place in this year's preseason poll. The Lobos picked up 278 points and a first-place vote to finish ahead of fourth-place Nevada (240 points and a first-place vote) and fifth-place Colorado State (218 points).

UNLV (6th place; 199 points), San Jose State (7th place; 124 points) and Fresno State (8th place; 115 points) were the next three teams to fall in line behind the Rams. Utah State (9th place; 105 points), Wyoming (10th place; 74 points) and Air Force (11th place; 61 points) round out the poll.

SDSU has been predicted to finish either first or second in the Mountain West preseason poll in each of the last 10 years. It is also the 15th time in the 25 seasons the Mountain West has been in existence that San Diego State has been picked first or second in the preseason poll. Additionally, those 15 times have occurred in the last 19 years.  

Butler, a senior out of Moreno Valley, Calif., was selected as a member of the Preseason All-Mountain West Team. A physical guard, Butler was a member of the league's All-Defensive Team and a third-team all-league performer last season, exploded in the postseason being named to the NCAA All-South Regional Team and a spot on the NCAA All-Tournament Team after hitting the biggest shot in program history, the game winner against Florida Atlantic to send the Aztecs to the national championship game.

Last year, he led the Aztecs in assists (126) and steals (57), ranked No. 2 in field goals (128), and No. 3 in points (345) and minutes (1,010). Among returners from last year's team, he leads the squad in made baskets, assists, steals and ranks second in points, minutes, and assists-to-turnover ratio (1.59:1), and is third in 3-pointers (40) and rebounds (105).

Among Mountain West performers in 2022-23, he ranked No. 7 in steals, No. 10 in assist-to-turnover ratio and No. 12 in assists. On a national level, he was No. 82 in steals, No. 141 in assists, and No. 199 in steals per game. Additionally, his 32 wins and 126 assists rank No. 7 and No. 20, respectively, in San Diego State single-season history.

Prior to his buzzer-beating heroics in the Final Four, he drained a straightaway triple as the clock expired in a 73-71 victory at New Mexico on Feb. 25, to avenge the team's only loss at home last year.

Butler enters the upcoming season with the opportunity to join some elite Aztec company. He is within striking distance of becoming the third player in program history to score at least 1,000 points, dish out 280 assists and total 170 steals. He needs 337 points, 70 assists and 43 steals to achieve the milestone. When he reaches those plateaus, he will join Aztec Hall of Fame inductee Brandon Heath (2004-07) and Chase Tapley (2009-13) as the only players in San Diego State men's basketball history to achieve the triumvirate.

Waters, the reigning Pac-12 Sixth Player of the Year, transferred to San Diego State from Southern California and now becomes the fourth Aztec in the past five years to be named the Preseason Newcomer of the Year.  

In 2022-23, Waters, the Trojans' third leading scorer, averaged 9.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 25.3 minutes per game. A starter in eight of 29 appearances, the native of Long Beach, Calif., shot 43.8 percent (102-of-233) from the field, 29.6 percent (24-of-81) from beyond the arc, and 77.5 percent (55-of-71) from the line. In addition, he set career-bests in rebounds (93), steals (21), blocks (12) and minutes (734). He reached double figure scoring in 13 contests, including a career-best 20 points vs. Long Beach State on December 14.

Among players who came off the bench at least 20 times last season, his 10.3 points per game in those contests ranked No. 17 in the nation and would have ranked No. 2 in the Mountain West. In addition, among players on that list who stand at least 6-5, his points per game coming off the bench was the sixth highest in the nation.

Waters joined the Trojans' program in December of 2020 after graduating early from Los Angeles' St. Bernard High School, and in 72 career games over two-plus seasons he averaged 6.2 points on 43.5 percent shooting (102-of-233) from the field, including 35.0 percent (48-of-137) from the bonus distance, and 80.9 percent (93-of-155) from the line. He made eight starts, all last season.

In 2023-24, San Diego State welcomes back a pair of returning starters from the 2022-23 squad which played for the national championship in Butler and senior guard Darrion Trammell, as well as Jaedon LeDee and Micah Parrish. In all, the Aztecs return four letterwinners and have brought five newcomers into the fold, featuring Waters and Jay Pal, who while attending and competing for Campbell, was the third leading shot blocker in the Big South.

SDSU boasts the third-best winning percentage in the country since the start of the 2019-20 season, is one of five schools, nationally, to win at least 19 games each of the last 18 seasons, and since 2006 trails only Gonzaga among most conference championship game appearances in Division I. The Aztecs have 14 to the 'Zags 18. In addition, San Diego State has won a conference-record 16 Mountain West championships (regular-season and tournament) and its 75.8 percent winning percentage since the start of the 2009-10 campaign is the sixth best in the country.

The Aztecs play an exhibition on Monday, October 30, against Cal State San Marcos in Viejas Arena and then host its regular-season opener on Monday, Nov. 6, against Cal State Fullerton.

For more information on tickets for the 2023-24 San Diego State men's basketball season, contact the Aztec Athletics Ticket Office at 619-283-7378 or [email protected].

2023-24 Mountain West Preseason Predicted Order of Finish

Pl. Team – Points (1st-place votes)

1. San Diego State – 333 (25)

2. Boise State – 299 (4)

3. New Mexico – 278 (1)

4. Nevada – 240 (1)

5. Colorado State – 218

6. UNLV – 199

7. San Jose State – 124

8. Fresno State – 115

9. Utah State – 105

10. Wyoming – 74

11. Air Force – 61

2023-24 Preseason All-Conference Team

Lamont Butler, Sr., G, San Diego State

Isaiah Stevens, Gr., G, Colorado State

Jaelen House, Gr., G, New Mexico

Jamal Mashburn Jr., Sr., G, New Mexico

Tyson Degenhart, Jr., F, Boise State

2023-24 Preseason Player of the Year

Isaiah Stevens, Gr., G, Colorado State

2023-24 Preseason Newcomer of the Year

Reese Waters, Jr., G, San Diego State

2023-24 Preseason Freshman of the Year

Dedan Thomas Jr., G, UNLV

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