The Fresno State Bulldogs really did it. After the Bulldogs' CBI Tournament run in 2014, a conference championship was within the program's sights - But the team took a step back in 2015 and had not carried championship expectations until a surreal six-week run that was capped with a ticket to the big dance on Saturday.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the Bulldogs got past Colorado State in the semifinal round by forcing the Rams to miss 37 of their last 42 shots. Fresno State got a wake-up call versus San Diego State in the opening minutes as the Aztecs made their first three shots to take a 7-0 run.
The Bulldogs proved they had athleticism and talent to match with a put-back dunk from Cullen Russo, followed by an and-one alley oop play by Russo once again to make it a 10-8 deficit.
Over the final 16 minutes of the first half, Fresno State never trailed by more than four and tied the game three times. It was not until the Bulldogs' final possession that Mountain West Player of the Year Marvelle Harris sank a 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs' their first lead of the game going into halftime - 39-36.
San Diego State jumped right back into the lead with a 9-2 run to open the second half. The Aztecs held that lead for another 10 minutes until another crucial 3-pointer swung the lead back the the 'Dogs, this one by Jahmel Taylor.
The Aztecs responded by scoring on their next four possessions to take a 62-61 advantage going into the final two minutes. Julien Lewis put the Bulldogs back on top with a steal and 3-pointer in transition - his first field goal of the game.
After the teams traded empty possessions, SDSU went for the equalizer as Dakari Allen drew a foul and two free throws to potentially tie. He made one of two. Down one, the Aztecs immediately fouled Lewis who came through in the clutch to sink both.
San Diego State had one last chance to tie with a three-point deficit, but Karachi Edo blocked an Aztec shot attempt and Lewis sank two more free throws to put the game away and punch the team's ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Fresno State will find out who it will play in the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The Selection Sunday show will air on CBS at 2:30 p.m. PT to reveal who and where the 'Dogs will be playing. The closest regionals to the Central Valley are in Washington and Colorado.