Aztecs’ Basketball Future Bright Despite Loss In NCAA Tournament
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Aired 3/28/14 on KPBS News.
The Arizona Wildcats eliminated the Aztecs 70-64, but the SDSU men's basketball team did far better this year than expected.
It really did rise, although San Diego State basketball fans might disagree.
Friday's sun came up in the east even after the Aztecs fell in Thursday's NCAA Tournament West Region.
Arizona got the best of SDSU for the second time this season.
And for the first time this season, the Aztecs aren't preparing for another game.
SDSU was eliminated by the Wildcats, the result of Arizona's 70-64 Sweet 16 victory.
That the Aztecs had an eight-point, second-half lead and were poised to upset the top-seeded Wildcats makes the defeat more unsettling.
So the 2013-14 Aztecs will forever remain stuck on 31 victories in what was a memorable season.
The loss stings, but the burn is softened by what's on the team's horizon.
Don't forget this season was about seasoning, not reaching the Sweet 16.
SDSU didn't get a vote in the preseason AP Top 25 poll. The Aztecs were picked for fourth in the Mountain West Conference.
This was to be a solid year, not sensational. But it was just that with the Aztecs prevailing at Kansas, winning 20 straight games to tie a school record, losing but once at home, taking the Mountain West title and advancing to the NCAA Tournament's second week for only the second time in the school's history.
This bridge season proved more spectacular than so-so. And on deck is the best recruiting class since a full court was constructed on Montezuma Mesa.
A collection of impressive talent is headed to SDSU, so good that it landed the Aztecs among the handful of colleges securing four standouts from ESPN's Top 100 listing.
Forward Malik Pope, the first five-star recruit signed by SDSU, leads the band of newcomers. Others are guards Trey Kell (St. Augustine High) and Kevin Zabo and forward Dylan Cheatham. Plus Arizona transfer, forward Angelo Chol, will be eligible.
Aztecs fans will miss Xavier Thames and Josh Davis, but among those returning to join the new kids on the Aztecs' block are JJ O'Brien, Skylar Spencer, Winston Shepard, Matt Shrigley, Dwayne Polee II and Dakarai Allen.
Did SDSU's Sweet 16 appearance, like the one three years ago, end on a sour note?
But did the Aztecs produce a sweet season, one to be cherished for years?
And while Arizona rose on Thursday, SDSU figures to rise again next season.
Just like Friday's sun.
Jay Paris is a freelance sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @jparis_sports.