Salt Lake City, Utah – San Diego State won 24 games this season, but the Aztec program has yet to taste victory on college basketball's biggest stage.
In its first four trips to the NCAA tourney San Diego State has come up empty, going a combined 0-4. Tonight, it hopes to end that drought with a win over one of the nation's most storied programs, Indiana.
Coached by former Michigan coach Steve Fisher, the San Diego State Aztecs (24-8, 13-3 Mountain West Conference) will make their fifth appearance in the NCAA tournament and Fisher is to draw some national attention to his program.
"I think when you get to the tournament they talk about you," said Fisher. "We have had things talked about us, not only locally, but regionally and nationally. If we win it will be the first NCAA tournament win in the history of the school. So we will get a little more talked about and we will be playing on Saturday with just 32 of us left.
"I think winning has a way of allowing everything to happen that we are hopeful can and will happen."
With a 20-7 record in the NCAA tournament as a head coach, Fisher is no stranger to success. While at Michigan he won the national title in 1989 and made back to back championship game appearances in 1992 and 1993. But at SDSU, his only NCAA invitation ended with a first-round defeat.
The Aztecs have not made the NCAA tournament since 2002, meaning no starter on the current team has any postseason experience to fall back on. San Diego State has shown remarkable improvement from last season, when the Aztecs posted an 11-18 record, including a 4-10 record in conference play.
"Chasing after this dream is finally catching up to us, said senior center Trimaine Davis. "All of us being recruited here, we all had a dream in mind to make it to the Big Dance and we finally got here. It means everything in the world to us to be here. But we're not a team that is going to just be satisfied to be here, we want to make sure that we go out and play hard also."
With his experience in big games, Fisher knows both the challenges of being the favorite and the underdog. He knows it will be no easy task for his Aztecs to send Indiana home early.
"They're good," said Fisher. "I'm very impressed. They're athletic all across the board. They guard exceptionally well. I watched a bit of them live during the Big Ten Tournament and they can make it hard for you even when you think you're going to get an open perimeter shot. They challenge you and they run at you. Then they have (Marco) Killingsworth who can create a lot of opportunities for other people because of how good he is. We'll have a hard time guarding him."
The man in charge of guarding Killingsworth will most likely be first-team all-conference junior forward Marcus Slaughter. The 6-9, 220-pound Slaughter will give up nearly 50 pounds going against the second-team all-conference pick Killingsworth.
"(Killingsworth) is a different (kind of) player than we have seen this whole year," Slaughter said. "He is bigger than everyone we've faced. He's great at posting up and getting good position in the post. It's going to be a great test for us to see how good our double team is. We'll definitely have to double a guy like that."
The Aztecs come into the game with the Hoosiers on a six-game winning streak and are coming off wins against Colorado State, UNLV and Wyoming in the Mountain West Tournament. Indiana comes in after a loss to Ohio State that snapped a five-game winning streak.
"They're a good team," said Fisher. "They got on a roll after they had a losing streak and won five straight before losing by one point to a team that could have been a No. 1 seed in Ohio State. And they had two shots to win that game. They're playing really good basketball right now and they're a confident team. They think they're good and that makes them even more dangerous."
Aztecs Hoping To Taste Victory
Peegs.com Top Stories
Hoosier Newsstand, Oct. 23Get the latest articles on Indiana basketball, football and other sports in today's edition of the Hoosier Newsstand.
Peegs Podcast: The Morning After NorthwesternIndiana couldn't get anything going offensively and never dug itself out of a hole in a 24-14 loss to Northwestern, but IU basketball saved the day with an exciting celebration at…
Peegs.comYesterday at 10:30 PM
Video: HH scrimmage highlightsPeegs.com brings you a great compilation of video highlights from Saturday's night's Hoosier Hysteria men's team scrimmage.
Peegs.comYesterday at 9:11 PM
Hoosier Hysteria notebook, videoIndiana's Hysteria notebook: Extensive video clips, IU coach Tom Crean chokes up when handing out Big Ten championship rings, ESPN's Seth Greenberg discusses Indiana basketball,…
Peegs.comYesterday at 8:48 PM
6 takeaways: Hoosier Hysteria scrimmageWithout going overboard on a short intra-squad public event, here are six takeaways from Indiana’s Hoosier Hysteria scrimmage.
Peegs.comYesterday at 8:04 PM