“Aztecs Basketball–A Winner”
Anybody remember the dark days of San Diego State basketball?
Peterson Gym, an empty Sports Arena, Fred Trinkel crying-Jim Brandenberg yelling-Tony Fuller looking lost?
Who would have thought, when Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher took over in 1999, and the team went (0-14) in the WAC and (5-23) overall, we would have this.
March Madness, with people wearing the Red & Black, playing most every year in the tourney.
Remember once upon a time when we were happy this team got an NIT bid.
Remember the explosive excitement of the 30-win seasons, in the Jamal Franklin (34-3) years…Kawhi Leonard’s team (31-5)…and last year’s (30-2) lightning in a bottle season with Malachi Flynn.
The Aztecs play Syracuse later this week in a gym in Indiana, maybe at the NBA Arena…maybe at Hinkle Field House on the Butler campus, maybe at one of the other locations.
It’s a very different tourney, marred by Covid, by pauses, by ill players and coaches, and by upsets along the way. There are no regions to speak of. No jetting to one locale or another. Play and stay in downtown Indianapolis if you keep winning.
Brian Dutcher called it a ‘2 year odyssey’ to get here, playing and winning this year, but playing for the guys last year, who never got to go to the tourney, when it was covid-cancelled after that mystical season
“I was saddened for those kids last year. As a coach I have had magic moments-in the tourney-winning the trophy..but those kids, Malachi-KJ Feagen-Yonni Wetzel..they only had a 1-year window, and it was taken away.”
The Aztecs will be hotel bound for a full week at least. They had their Covid test upon arrival on Sunday. They are bound to their rooms. They will be tested against on Monday morning before their practice. They will live a life of seclusion for the next week. Basketball, book work, game tapes, and zoom calls.
A truly different year.
And a truly different opponent, Syracuse, which has beaten them twice in the past with its Jim Boeheim zone defense, once on the carrier, the Midway, here in Mission Bay, the game influenced by the winds that night, the other time at the Carrier Dome in upstate New York in the NIT tourney.
The Aztecs are in the tourney a 15th time. They are (6-9) under Dutcher and Fisher, and (6-12) in school history. They have been to the Sweet 16-twice, never the Elite Eight and only dreams of a Final 4.
But they are there and that is all that counts. They earned it with this 14-game win streak. Granted they don’t play where Syracuse plays, the vaunted Atlantic Coast Conference. And they haven’t lost blowout games like the Orange have this season.
But they bring a 2-year record (52-6) with them to Indiana and a resume of accomplishment since the Fisher-Dutcher tandem moved into the 619-Area Code.
Fun week ahead after a nightmare two years of life.
Maybe Dutcher can call the NCAA and ask them if they play their first game at Hinkle Field House-on the Butler campus, you know the one made famous by Gene Hackman in the movie ‘Hoosiers.
Maybe a chance for the Aztecs to create a memory, just like those kids from Hickory did.