It was the third time this season San Diego State and New Mexico met. The first, New Mexico upset San Diego State at “The Pit” with one of the worst performances by the Aztecs all season long. The second, San Diego State got their revenge, defeating New Mexico in the Viejas Arena and claimed the Mountain West regular season title. The last, 20th-ranked New Mexico defeats No. 8 San Diego State 64-58 for the tournament win, making it New Mexico’s third straight title in the Mountain West and becoming the first team in the MWC to win three championships in a row.
The win gives New Mexico an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament. For San Diego State, whether they had won or lost, are still going. They will find out on “Selection Sunday” which seeding they’ll receive.
The NCAA Tournament is where teams make it or break it. No one really remembers who won conference tournaments. Sure, it gives some teams a chance into the tournament (who might not have been selected), but it’s what teams do in the NCAA that matter. It’s what teams do to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, Final Four, and the championship that matter.
Running deep in the NCAA Tournament is a big way to get respect nationally. It’s a way to get some sort of bragging rights. It’s a way to build up a reputation and program. Now, that goes without saying what a tremendous job head coach Steve Fisher has done with San Diego State’s program, but the Aztecs are part of the Mountain West – a conference that doesn’t garner as much national attention as say the AAC, SEC, Big 10, Big 12.
For Fisher, having two Mountain West teams (San Diego State and New Mexico) represented in the NCAA Tournament means just that:
“My hope is that both of us can get into this next tournament and win and prove that we have teams in the Mountain West Conference that can compete not only within a league, can compete nationally with anybody. They can play with anybody, and so can we. So let’s hope that we do that next week.”
For the Aztecs, a run to the Elite Eight and Final Four is yet to come. Their 2010-2011 season was their best, making it to the Sweet Sixteen. The fact San Diego State is going to the tournament should be quite an achievement in itself. This season for the Aztecs was said to be a “rebuilding” year. Yet they were nationally ranked, had won 27 games during the regular season (second-highest single-season in school history), and extended its school record to 16 conference wins (surpassing the 14 wins from 2010-2011 season). Not to mention, Xavier Thames and Fisher were named the 2014 Mountain West Player and Coach of the Year, along with Dwayne Polee as the Sixth Man of the Year.
“I think our whole season, body of work, we’ve done a pretty good job of going out and competing and winning, winning in different environments, against different leagues, on the road, neutral sites, high altitude. When you have to win to have a chance to win the league, we won 29 games. We had a really, really, really good season.” (Steve Fisher)
Photo by AP Photo/Isaac Brekken.
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