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What Will Be Aztecs Biggest Challenge In NCAA Tournament?

What Will Be Aztecs Biggest Challenge In NCAA Tournament?
Could this be the year SDSU wins its first NCAA Tournament game? And, what are the chances this year's Aztecs could make it deep into the tournament? We speak to sports reporter Mark Zeigler about the Aztecs first round matchup against Northern Colorado, and the big challenges SDSU will face in the West Region.

Could this be the year SDSU wins its first NCAA Tournament game? And, what are the chances this year's Aztecs could make it deep into the tournament? We speak to sports reporter Mark Zeigler about the Aztecs first round matchup against Northern Colorado, and the big challenges SDSU will face in the West Region.


Mark Zeigler, sports reporter for the San Diego Union-Tribune


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This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

FUDGE: I'm Tom Fudge, and You're listening to These Days in San Diego. This past weekend was a good one for the San Diego state Aztecs basketball team, the Aztec men won the [CHECK] Brigham young university. Upon more good news arrived yesterday when they received a number two ranking in the western region of the NCAA tournament. This season has been the best season in Aztec basketball history, now we have to see if that translates into a [CHECK] joining me to talk about what's next is the guy who's been covering the Aztecs all season for the San Diego Union Tribune, mark Zeigler. And mark, thank you very much.

ZIEGLER: Glad to be here.

FUDGE: And listeners, if you want to give us a call, you may at 1-888-895-KPBS. Mark, what do you make of their ranking in the tournament? Did they get the respect they deserve by getting the [CHECK] seed in the west region.

ZIEGLER: Absolutely, there was some concern going into the amount on Sunday that they might end up with a number three seat or be shifted back east into the New York region and have to do a lot of traveling. And [CHECK] they ended up with the number two seat that they're in, what I think is the easiest quadrant of the bracket. They don't have to play, you know, a team from a power conference for at least a couple games, probably. And they get to stay out west. They're gonna be in Tucson for the first weekend, and if they advance past Tucson, they'll be in an lime just up the freeway. And again, you can't ask for anything more or better.

FUDGE: Mark, the Aztecs got the BYU monkey off their back [CHECK] they finally beat those Mormons of what did you think of the game?


ZIEGLER: Well, it was really important. It was interesting because the final amount west conference tournamenting this was a trophy at stake, and players like to win championships issue obviously, but if you talk to the player, the real motivation to play BYU [CHECK] there's a sense of invincibility when you [CHECK] BYU, it hurt, but it wasn't as bad as the one in Viejas Arena, [CHECK] any sporting event, and very, very hard to win up there, and BYU played pretty well. And the game here at Viejas, they just don't like to lose at home, and it was sort of -- their pride really had been injured. So I think, like you said, getting that monkey off their back, and being able to beat B, why U, it added something to the aura of this team that they didn't have before this game.

FUDGE: Well, it must have added something to their ability to get the number two seed right?

ZIEGLER: Absolutely, BYU was slotted and most prognosticators' projected bracket [CHECK] and they sort of flopped spots afterwards.

FUDGE: Who will the Aztecs play [[]]

ZIEGLER: They play northern Colorado, which is kind of an interesting match up, because usually the number two seed, they play the number 15 seed, and usually the 15 seed is a smaller [CHECK] automatic birth, and so they got the big sky conference is automatic birth, and usually it's a smaller, lesser known team that you're not familiar with. Of you might not have ever seen play before. You might not even know what their mascot is. And in this case, it's not like -- this group of seniors has played them twice, in fact, they had a home and home series, in the 2007, '08, '09 season, and they split the game, and interestingly enough, northern Colorado won at Viejas Arena, are and then the Aztecs [CHECK].

FUDGE: This is a team that just recently joined the division one in the it?

ZIEGLER: Yes, they've only been division one officially since 2006. But they're a very, very good team, and this group of players, they're senior dominated, they have some pretty good guard, they did should the the ball pretty well. [CHECK] the danger in your first game is to look at the bracket and to say, well, my gosh, if we win this game and this game, we plate [CHECK] and the danger is to look ahead a little bit too much, and particularly [CHECK] a team you never heard of. But this team will catch their attention particularly because of the game in Viejas arena, [CHECK] the biggest win in school history.

FUDGE: And Mark Ziegler is my guest, he's a sportswriter for the San Diego Union Tribune. Lately he's been covering the Aztec men's basketball team which is going to the NCAA tournament, and let's do that thing that thes tech men are not supposed to do. Which is assume they're going to win their first game and move on. [CHECK].

ZIEGLER: A lot of people that I've talked to, who I respect in their opinions have said all along that the toughest game for San Diego state's gonna be their second game. You know, your first game, you can probably get a B plus effort and still win just on talent and athleticism alone. But in your second game, you can't do that. You're gonna need an A effort from then on. And the second game they play, either temple or pen state. Team out of the Atlantic ten, won 24 games. None of their losses are to bad teams ownership bad losses issue so they're gonna make you earn everything you get. [CHECK] ferocious run to get into the tournament, and reached the final, the big taken championship by knocking off Wisconsin, a very highly rated team, and Michigan state, [CHECK] along the way, Ohio state, considered the best team in the country, reasonably tough in the big ten final before lose you go. But I really think that game is gonna be the toughest game. They're gonna play a team that's not gonna be intimidated [CHECK] and they're really gonna have to dig down to win that one.

FUDGE: To not talk about the Aztecs for a built.

A. Who do you think has the west chance of winning? Is it Ohio state in the number one ranked team?

ZIEGLER: You know, what's interesting about this bracket, as I said, just look at it, and again, take this with a grain of salt, [CHECK] horrific, some have been okay. But I think Ohio state and Kansas, on paper, are the two best teams. But when you look at the brackets, I think they got the hardest roads to the final four, which is a little bit odd for the two best teams, it really should be the other way around. If you look at the lower half of the bracket, [CHECK] filled with teams that either under achieved or have been fading down the stretch or are flawed teams, and I know it's a much easier route to come out of that half of the bracket. And that's where San Diego state is. Of so I think again on paper, Ohio state or Kansas are your two best teams but they're gonna have to win a lot of tough games to get the to the final four.

FUDGE: That's interesting, you were talking about the fact that it's really good for [CHECK] they stayed in the west, they stayed in the same time zone. I think the top seeded team in the west is duke, which is not in the west. Poor duke got sent out to the Pacific ocean to play their games, which I think was a comment on them that duke was for them, practice, a disappointing season.

ZIEGLER: Had, they were the [CHECK] number one, very good fresh men, but their freshman point guard got hurt early on, and has been gone ever since. And they have been kind of up and down. They're still a very good team. I think this season, in recent memory, it's justice a wide open tournament. [CHECK] when they decided San Diego state wasn't gonna be a number one seed, they had to send somebody out west, and they picked duke. [CHECK] in the region final in Anaheim for a spot in the time four, of the four next one seeds, I think San Diego state matches up best with duke because they're very athletic. And once you get past the first or second round, it's all about match ups in this tournament. And this is a team, I think that San Diego state can match up with, they don't match up about in terms of tradition, and history, but if you can get by that, you can get by the names on the jerseys, just player for player [CHECK] San Diego state.

FUDGE: Yeah, tradition and history, and I guess my final question to you, mark, is do you think coach fisher has made this into a historic team? Is this a team that's gonna have the legs to -- is this a basketball program that's gonna have the legs to carry them into the future.

ZIEGLER: Well, you'd certainly think so. And that's been his track record. And I think people need to understand, a couple things of number one, you know, and I've been telling San Diego state fans this [CHECK] season, you can close your eyes and take a really deep breath and appreciate this. And I know that's a cliche but these seasons don't come around ever in San Diego state. And they probably won't hatch again. And Steve Fisher is the first to say that. 32 winnings is so hard to do. You talk to keeps [CHECK] and they'll say, gosh, 30 wins, it's so-so hard to do even for us with all those resources and players. And so yoke we could expect them to win 30 games again, in the regular season. But I think it's reasonable to expect -- [CHECK] and maybe next year will be down [CHECK] in a couple years, I think they're gonna be -- they're a program now, this is a team, and there's a difference in the difference between a team and a real program. And I think going forward, if the get some of the resources that other teams had with their coaches' salaries or whether it's I practice facility, the ability to pay guarantees, to play home gay, the ability to make your schedule a little easier. [CHECK]one of these top 25 teams every year, year in year out.

FUDGE: All right. Tune in for more on that, and mark, everyone thanks a lot.

ZIEGLER: My pleasure.

FUDGE: Mark Ziegler is a sports reporter for the San Diego Union Tribune. And he has been covering the Aztec men's basketball team for the ut, all year. Coming up in the next -- coming up next, we're gonna take a break, but coming up next on These Days, we'll talk about garden to table recipes, what can you grow in your garden that will best compliment your table 678 stay tune forward that, we'll be right back.