EL CENTRO – After a tumultuous regular season that resulted in an over-all record of 17 wins and 14 losses, the only way the San Diego State Aztecs men’s basketball 2017 campaign could continue into the post season would be by winning the Mountain West Conference tournament this past week at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
In the first round Wednesday, the Aztecs played hosting Running Rebels where an even 50-50 score at the end of regulation forced an additional overtime period. SDSU pulled away, allowing only one bucket in added time to seal the 62-52 victory.
As the Aztecs lived to fight another day, the #3-seeded Boise State Broncos waited in the quarter finals. SDSU forward Malik Pope netted a double-double in the second-round match up with 22 points and 10 rebounds to help the Aztecs ride out the 87-68 upset over the Broncos.
The day three semifinal against the #2 ranked Colorado State Rams started off with the Aztecs controlling the game to take a 36-30 lead into the locker room at halftime. In the second period, however, the Rams outscored SDSU by a margin of 26 points to earn the 71-63 comeback win and stopped the Aztecs one game short of the championship and potential automatic NCAA National Tournament bid.
The last time SDSU won the Mountain West Conference Championship was the 2010-2011 season before the league’s reconfiguration. In a championship game between the regular season conference co-champ Aztecs vs. Brigham Young University Cougars, each team benefited from work horse future NBA stars.
SDSU with Kawhi Leonard and company polished off BYU and tournament MVP Jimmer Fredette. The Aztecs went on to win two games in the National Tournament that same season before they were taken out in the Sweet 16 by the eventual Final Four Champion, University of Connecticut Huskies.
The 2010-2011 tourney journey produced what is arguably considered the Aztecs’ best season in the 90-year history of men’s basketball at SDSU. Aztec alumni and NBA all-star Kawhi Leonard entered the NBA Draft in 2011 and later went on to become awarded Most Valuable Player honors in the 2014 NBA Finals where he helped the San Antonio Spurs win their fifth franchise championship.
When Steve Fisher, legendary ex-Michigan State Wolverines “Fab Five” head coach, came aboard in 1999, the Aztecs revitalized the floundering program and have appeared in the post season National Tournament eight times since. In 2010-2011, SDSU was ranked as #4 team in the nation which marked its highest national ranking of all time.
Under Coach Fisher, the Aztecs won their first conference tournament title and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the 1984-1985 season.
With the intent on retuning in 2018, Coach Fisher brings his previous tournament championship experience back for another chance to dance.