Aztecs Head for Spokane as #4 Seed in West Region
Coming out of the Mountain West Conference Tournament with a 29 – 4 record, the SDSU men’s basketball team is headed for Spokane as the #4 team in the West Region of the NCAA tournament. The Aztecs are set to face 13th-seeded New Mexico State Thursday in their school-record fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
Jessica Ekard ('12) says the Aztecs "blew out all expectations" this season.
The team’s somewhat surprising finish as regular-season conference champions and its placement in the West Region have fans excited about the Aztecs’ potential for a deep tournament run. Fans who followed the team to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Championship Tournament say they are happy with the season so far and hopeful the Aztecs’ winning ways will continue in Spokane and beyond.
Jessica Ekard (’12) traveled with family members to Las Vegas for her first conference tournament experience with the Aztecs. As a former point guard in high school, she says she appreciates what the team has accomplished this year.
“I was pleasantly surprised because this was supposed to be kind of a rebuilding year and they blew out all the expectations,” she said. “They're doing great, so it's been really exciting.”
She’s cautiously optimistic about the Aztecs’ chances in the West Region. “Hopefully they will survive the first round and we'll see where it goes from there," Ekard said.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Amy and Elijah Ritter planned their vacation around following the Aztecs to the couple’s first conference tournament. They say they have been pleased, but not surprised by the team’s successful season.
SDSU fans Elijah and Amy Ritter believe the Aztecs have national championship potential.
"We heard all about how we were supposed to finish fourth in the Mountain West,” said Amy Ritter, “but during the preseason games my husband and I were looking at this team and thinking, ‘No, there's no way we finish that low. We have a deep bench.’”
"It's been unbelievable,” Elijah Ritter said. “I knew they were going to do well, but this season has been great.
"I'm hoping they win it all. They have the potential to do it. I think if a couple guys find themselves and kick it to the next level during the next couple of weeks they have a really good chance of pulling this whole thing out."
BETTER THINGS TO COME
Jerry Waldron (’72) has been an Aztecs fan since the 1960s. He likes the direction the men’s basketball program has been heading in recent years and says he’s optimistic about the team’s chances for another Sweet Sixteen appearance and maybe more.
“I think they’ve evolved and matured and now they have the self-confidence to go deep into March Madness," he said. “The cohesiveness, the team play – what I have noticed is that it seems like they are always under control.
“The team has great leadership and (point guard) Xavier Thames and especially Coach Fisher, Coach Hutson and Coach Dutcher are the key ingredients. There's a lot of talent on that team but they play as a team, win or lose."
Jerry Waldron ('71) thinks the Aztecs and their fans may expect "better things to come."
Waldron says the team has brought positive attention to SDSU athletics. He thinks the national spotlight will continue to shine on the Aztecs in the coming weeks and into the future.
“There's only going to be better things to come, I'm sure,” he said. “This is a great team this year and we'll see how far they go, but I'm sure next year's team will be even better."
For SDSU fans traveling to Spokane, a pregame Aztec gathering is planned for Thursday at The Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln Street one block north of the arena. Game time has been set for 6:57 p.m. PT.
Current 2013-14 men's basketball season ticket holders have until Monday, March 17 at 11 a.m. PT to advance order tickets online before tickets go on sale to the general public. All questions should be directed to the Aztec Ticket Office at (619) 283-7378.