By Richard Armstrong
After San Diego State failed to make the NCAA or NIT tournaments for the first time since the 2004-2005 season last year, expectations coming into this season were mixed. The team also looked to move on from the greatest coach in the history of San Diego State Basketball, Steve Fisher, after he retired following last season. Most pundits agreed on a couple things however: the Aztecs are talented, they play good defense, and they should compete with Nevada, Boise State, and Fresno State for top dog in the Mountain West.
The out of conference schedule included a road game at Arizona State, in addition to home games against: Georgia, Washington State, Cal, and last year’s national title runner up Gonzaga. The Aztecs were able to pick up wins against Georgia and Gonzaga, but lost to all three Pac-12 foes. They finished the non-conference portion of their schedule 8-3 and hoped to build off the momentum from the win over then seventh ranked Gonzaga when conference play started. The conference schedule started with a loss on the road against Wyoming, but the Aztecs followed that up with 3 consecutive victories against Utah State, Colorado State, and San Jose State. Inconsistency would plague this team all season, as they would end up losing their next 3 games to Boise State, Fresno State, and New Mexico by 3 points, 4 points, and 4 points respectively. The Aztecs would then go on to alternate wins and losses over their next 4 games beating Colorado State and Air Force, but losing on the road at UNLV by 10 and at Fresno by 18. Following their loss to Fresno State, the Aztecs traveled to Reno to take on the only team in the Mountain West ranked inside the top 25 and current leaders of the conference, the Nevada Wolfpack. The score at halftime was tied at 35, but the second half was a completely different story and the Aztecs would go on to lose this game by 25 points.
Since the shellacking the Aztecs were handed in the second half of that game, they are undefeated going an impressive 6-0 including wins over the top two teams in the conference, Boise State and Nevada. San Diego State now takes their modest 6 game winning streak into the Mountain West Conference Tournament, which begins on Wednesday March 7th. The Aztecs will be looking for revenge against their first opponent, Fresno State, who swept them in both meetings during the regular season, the game will take place Thursday at 2:30 PM with the winner facing Nevada in the semi-final on Friday. Coaches always talk about playing your best basketball in March, and that is exactly what the Aztecs are doing. The Aztecs would need to win the Mountain West Tournament if they want a chance of dancing in the NCAA tournament, so it is as good a time as any to be firing on all cylinders. If the Aztecs are unable to bring home the Mountain West Tournament Championship, it seems likely they will end up in the NIT for the second time in the last 3 years.