The NCAA Tournament games we’ve come to enjoy each March - leading up to the first Monday in April – have been nowhere to be found. But the reminders of what the Aztecs have missed are everywhere, from old games being re-aired on TV to social media posts about great moments from years past.
“I'm seeing a lot of it on my feed right now, but what can you do?” San Diego State forward Yanni Wetzell said.
The San Diego State big man had his season end prematurely, like many other athletes. The coronavirus pandemic caused he and his teammates to miss out on one of the coolest opportunities of their lives.
“We had such a great run, and then the ability to put ourselves in position to have a one or two seed, and to have that taken away it's pretty devastating stuff," he said.
Wetzell knew there was a chance the Tournament could be canceled when the NCAA announced plans to play it without fans. When he got that news, he called his parents to tell them they may not need to make the trip from New Zealand. That understanding didn’t dull the sting when the NCAA announced on March 12 that its basketball championships were canceled.
“I was very emotional the first day I heard it,” Yanni said. “It was a very hard time of my life, especially since I spent five years working to this point. I'm a senior so I don't get another shot at this.”
Wetzell played for two other schools before San Diego State. He - like guard KJ Feagin - had never made it to the NCAA Touranment. They transferred to SDSU for their senior seasons in hopes of finally experiencing March Madness.
“This is probably the worst time of my life this could happen in my 23 years,” Wetzell said. “It's frustrating, but what can you do?”
What he'd like to be doing is figuring out the next step of his basketball career, but that's also on hold as the NBA decides what to do with the draft in June.
“It's all kind of a waiting game.”
So Yanni is left with plenty of time for his mind to wander back to the season they had, and the opportunity they lost.
“It's special regardless of us not getting to finish it off,” Wetzell said. “I think we were capable of winning it all.
“We would've had all our pieces and we definitely could've made a great run, but it's all a ‘what if.'”
Yanni also hoped to play in the Olympics in 2020. Next year he'll try to make New Zealand's National Team and help them qualify for the 2021 Summer Games.