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HOUSTON — Brian Dutcher nodded while two of his veteran players, Matt Bradley and Aguek Arop, shed tears as they talked about the impact he’d had on their lives, just moments after San Diego State suffered a 76-59 loss to UConn in Monday night’s national championship game.

Dutcher said his players not only proved the value of determination, but also — along with fellow Final Four team Florida Atlantic — that it’s possible to win without a bunch of NIL deals or transfers.

“We have a good team. With that being said, Florida Atlantic, we were fortunate to get by them [in the Final Four], and they’ve got a really good team, too, [with] everybody back,” Dutcher said. “So the state of basketball is in good shape right now. And you don’t have to have millions of dollars in NIL and you don’t have to get every kid in the portal to be successful. You just have to have kids that are about the right things [and] that want to win beyond anything else and are willing to sacrifice to do that. And that’s what we have.”

The Aztecs’ success this season was actually attached to the transfers Dutcher has added in recent years. Bradley (Cal), Darrion Trammell (Seattle) and Micah Parrish (Oakland) all transferred to San Diego State within the past two years. Dutcher stressed, however, that the parity that fueled this season’s NCAA tournament run could continue.

For the first time in NCAA history, no top seed reached the Elite Eight, and Purdue became the second top seed to suffer a loss to a 16-seed in the opening round. The Final Four also featured a unique group. Prior to this season, Florida Atlantic had never won an NCAA tournament game. Miami and San Diego State both reached the Final Four for the first time in their respective school’s history. And even though UConn won its fifth national championship since 1999, there has been debate about whether UConn is a blue blood program.

That parity will continue, Dutcher said.

“Florida Atlantic was way better in person than they were on tape,” Dutcher said. “They got everybody back but one guy. I mean, I don’t see who is going to beat them next year. They’re fantastic. We have a good team coming back. We’re going to be very good next year.”

Although UConn had been dominant throughout most of Monday night’s game, an SDSU run cut the deficit to five points with 5:19 to play. From there, however, UConn finished the game on a 16-4 run.

Bradley gave the Huskies credit for their offensive tools as they struggled to close the gap.

“I’m not going to lie, they have a lot of weapons,” said Bradley, who finished with eight points. “They were pretty good. To beat them, we had to make shots. I shot poorly. And you had to have a really good game to beat those dudes on the offensive end. But defensively we fought hard. We cut it to five. It wasn’t sweet at all. … A lot of guys stepped up for them, and they make all their free throws. So they’re a really good team, well-coached, and hats off to them. They battled, and we battled, too. They’re a really good team.”

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Brian Dutcher – SDSU, FAU proof you don’t need ‘millions’ in NIL to win