Tag Archives: SDSU

viejasarena

Interview with an Aztec: Previewing SDSU

The sixth ranked Wildcats head to the arena formerly known as Cox tonight. They’ll give just one point in taking the court against a team, SDSU, who has beaten them in two of their previous three encounters. Does Fish have Sean’s number? I’m not sure but I’m trying to get to the bottom of all things SDSU – a school with which I shared a city whilst a collegian. I’ve attended a game @SDSU and it was hilariously fun. I don’t usually preview games but when I do, I want it from the horse’s mouth and so I’ve grabbed co-worker, friend, and SDSU alum, Steve McDevitt, about his alma mater. After all, today is his birthday.

Now it’s worth noting that Steve recently became Poppa McD (otherwise known as “dad”) to the handsome and jet setting, Logan. He tells you about their adventures, misadventures, and beer on his blog, Pampers N Pints. And now he he answers my inquiries about SDSU hoops:

On a scale of one-to-there’s-a-statue-of-him-outside-of-Pauley-Pavilion, how much does Steve Fisher look like John Wooden?

If Wooden, Fisher, and Lou Holtz were all starring in a the same soft core porn, no way you could tell any of them apart. Hey, c’mon, everyone has fetish, right? I did, however, meet Fish a couple of times (porn unrelated). He used to come in to the cell phone shop I worked at and he’s a super nice guy. He turned the program around and probably had much better offers but stuck with the Aztecs. But hey, if you’re getting porn offers and living in San Diego, would you leave?

WoodenFisher

Toss up.

Were you ever a part of The Show and are you proud of The Show?

The only show unfortunately on in my house these days involves catty, orange debutantes donning seven pounds of makeup and more extensions than the Geico claims department. I’m going to have to phone a friend here, Regis, and bring Aztec aficionado and starting power forward of my wedding party, Tony Busalacchi.

This is the part where we introduce you to Tony with an anecdote from him on his fandom:

Best story I have is I went to the Spurs vs Kings game when Jimmer and Kawhi faced off for the first time in the NBA,  Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi were on the Spurs.  I yelled at Malcolm across the court and yelled Aztec4life and pointed at my SDSU shirt.  Malcolm pointed my way and gave me a nod.   There really is a special bond between the players, students, & Aztec die hards that have witnessed a team that only won 3 games in Fisher’s first year to consistently being one of the top teams out West.
So basically I’ll be interviewing Steve and an Aztec fan from here out. “T” represents Tony. “S” represents Steve. Genius.
So to you, Tony, your thoughts on The Show?
T: I used to sit with The Show back in 2000-2001 when it was just a few members, but I was never a part of The Show.  I remember heckling Bobby Knight when he was the coach of Texas Tech and got him to look my way with a mean stare.  I  personally love the creativity of The Show. They are the original creators of the big heads. They truly intimidate visiting teams and do a great job getting under their skin.  The show also does a great job getting the rest of the fans into the game and developing a great home court advantage for the Aztecs.

Moving on to actual round ball, Jamaal Franklin sure was good, so good in-fact I read he was the only D-1 player to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. How are the Aztecs going to replace that production, along with that of Chase Tapley and DeShawn Stephens? This is otherwise known as the what is SDSU good at question.

S: Tony…

T: Last year Maal was Mr everything for the Aztecs.  Tap was just  plain clutch. Early on will be a challenge as the team develops an identity.  As the year goes on, I feel we will be much more balanced and in fact have a better year even though we lost some key players.

I read somewhere that Josh Davis is basically Kawhi Leonard. Is Josh Davis an NBA runner-up?

S: I think I went to middle school with a guy named Josh Davis. Really great four-square player.

T:  Josh Davis does play like Kawhi & actually looks like him also.  He is a tenacious rebounder, freakishly athletic, & has a nose for the ball.  Josh will create his own legacy before the year is over

How awesome was The Beachcomber’s Thursday night, $1 You-call-its in college?

S: I don’t remember so… yeah… it was pretty awesome.

Is Arizona-SDSU a rivalry?

S: Back in 2004 or so, Arizona visited SDSU and we discovered that we could buy $3 student tickets and sell them to Arizona fans for $125 a pop. Rivalry? Not so much as we were gladly taking 800% better than our Jamba Juice salary. Although a battle between an Aztec warrior and a Wildcat might be a good match in the wild, so yes, I’d say it is a rivalry after all.

T:  I think AZ vs SDSU is going to become one of the best rivalries on the West Coast.  These are going to be THE two premier teams out West for years to come.  Shepard will be a breakout player for us this year.

/END TRANSCRIPT

Well that’s going to do it. Thank you Steve and thanks for jumping in Tony. Vegas says it’s going to be a ball game. I think we’ve got two teams that match wildly similarly: defensively oriented with a knack for rebounds. The x-factor could boil down to guard play where Arizona has an advantage with McConnell and Johnson above senior and WSU transfer, Xavier Thames. But here’s one additional thought: As both teams tout their strengths in the front court, this game could boil down to a power of wills. Strength vs. strength. Such match-ups often turn into epic games (see: 68-67, Arizona in Maui last year, also see below). As Tony mentioned, 6’8″ Winston Shepard is poised for a big year. The Aztecs are going to out-size many opponents and that will bode well for them in the MWC. This is the Pac-12 and Arizona has an NBA-esque front court that will gladly bang with the Aztecs (KALEB WANT CONTACT).

Worth noting: there’s a rostered SDSU player who’s last name is U’u and I think The Show is trolling at its best/worst/core.

HI, ANGELO!

DiamondHeadClassic

Diamond Head Classic Championship: Best of the West

To call tonight’s Arizona-San Diego State contest a statement game would appear hyperbolic. On paper, and current state aside, this is a Mountain West team playing a Pac-12 team. David versus Goliath or whichever underdog fable you’d like to run with, this game would appear to hold little by way of overarching significance.

But such is not the case. The San Diego Aztecs, as it stands today, are the preeminent team of the West Coast; Sean Miller said so himself. They’ve not lost to a Pac-12 opponent in their previous seven tries – their last loss coming in 2009 – and haven’t lost to a California-based opponent in an obscene 25-straight games. The Aztec resume is a significant one and so when they take to the court in Hawaii to face off against #3 Arizona, I question: Who’s the dog here?

Indeed there’s something bigger than a Diamond Head Classic trophy on the line.

For Arizona, this is a reclamation of the presumed birthright; the pedestal they and their other high-major conference contemporaries have taken for granted. An opportunity to assert themselves as who they think they are. And I, for one, think these Wildcats believe they’re something special.

For San Diego State, tonight’s game is far from their proving grounds. They’re proven (see above). This is a game that Steve Fisher’s group believes they can, should, and will win. He’s built a program over there – from garnering three straight NCAA invites to seven straight NCAA or NIT invites to the vitriolic Show – SDSU believes they are winners; the key ingredient to any successful campaign.

Plus we’re looking at a bit of a rivalry here. This is a Christmas feature of opponents who have faced off twenty-seven times, with SDSU winning each of the last two times. And with the lines between BCS and otherwise having long been blurred, it should come as no surprise that a big-ish school in beautiful San Diego could make a run at best of the West and been successful at it.

By way of tangible stakes, there’s little more than a made-for-TV tournament title and a blip in national attention to be had here. But our closer look suggests Arizona is running with what one might consider the conference’s honor. I see it as the Wildcats standing up to what’s been the Pac-12’s bully and demonstrating that hey, these guys aren’t that tough for the other eleven. To date, no one’s stood up to the Aztecs and it’s time someone has. And no, to beat them would equate to putting Fisher’s team or program in their “mid-major” place. SDSU’s place is right wherever they want to be. They’ve earned the West’s top billing and should be applauded for that success.

But Arizona, the conference’s flagship program while UCLA does whatever they’re doing, has the chance to remind the others it’s ok to be good again. That this is indeed the Pac-12, the Conference of Champions that’s produced 217 NBA draft picks since 1980 (the second most of the big six conferences)and who used to put six teams in the Dance regularly. Who once offered their 1997 fifth place finisher to the Madness only to win it all. Who has some talented pieces that just might need to be reminded that simply because someone says you’re mediocre, doesn’t mean you have to be. Ask SDSU about it.

Sometimes winning and losing is the minute difference between belief and doubt. I’d question whether the Pac believes they can win. I mean, look at some of the losses to date: Kravish misses UNLV box out; Randle fouls Minnesota 40-feet from the basket; Albany, Cal Poly, and CSU-Northridge; Colorado barely showing up to Kansas.

Perhaps I’ve digressed from the Diamond Head championship game, but forgive me for recognizing that the San Diego State Aztecs have taken the Pac-12 – Arizona included – to task for the better part of three years. Actually, sorry I’m not sorry.

The Arizona Wildcats have been on a long road back to where they feel they belong, and sure that’s to say in the top-five competing for things far bigger than preseason tournaments. It feels great and it looks good and it’s real nice. Beating the well-prepared and un-intimidated San Diego State Aztecs will be another step in exercising the demons of recent Arizona season’s past. And perhaps eleven others.

BB: Fandom Hits the Road

I’ve made no bones about it: I am a University of Arizona Wildcats fan.

Have been since the day I was born and will be until the day I die. The McKale Center is Mecca; Lute Olson, god; Elliot, Kerr, Reeves, Stoudamire, Simon, Bibby, Dickerson, Terry, Gardner, Stoudamire, Budinger, disciples.

I love nothing more than attending a game at McKale, cheering on the ‘Cats amongst 14,000 fellow fans, rising to our feet as the game ebbs, screaming as the moment begs.

That said, some of my fondest Arizona memories are on the road. Traveling with a finite but dedicated group of Wildcat aficionados, proudly donning the Cardinal and Navy into hostile territory.

 

I’ve done this in arenas from New York to Los Angeles, seen blow out wins and blow out losses, made new friends and enemies. I even once got to watch UA hoops at noon and football at six, both live in Vegas, for my brother’s 22nd birthday.

One of the best times I ever had was in Tempe, January 2010. Arizona was in the midst of their worst season in 25 years and ASU was in the midst of their best run in those same 25 years. James Harden was a season removed from the Herbivores and Arizona finally had a non-interim head coach. A head coach who I would later ask:

Coach Miller, you’ve coached with and for Herb Sendek. Now, I was in Tempe two-years ago when you beat that school by 19 and I just want to know: was that as much fun for you as it was for me?

Miller of course had a very PC answer. Divulging very little of his fiery, competitive demeanor at an Arizona Athletics fundraiser hosted by the Bay Cats at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. I wrote about that great night in Tempe, read it here.

But the best game, the greatest moment on the road, was 2006 in San Diego.

I’d bought the tickets via SDSU the day they became open to the public – that is to say months in advance. Had I any foresight I would have swooped up the max allotment and made myself a pretty penny for a collegian. Alas, hindsight is always 20-20.

Attending the Chase Budinger homecoming would be my Dad, his best friend, and me, all coincidentally sitting next to the entire Budinger family along with a stadium full of Arizona fans (Zonies love San Diego and any excuse to get over there).

If you’ve never been to Viejas Arena at Aztec Bowl (formerly Cox Arena), it’s a scene. They have a raucous and famously crude student section (who like all San Diego sports fans really only show up when it’s a big game, if at all) and is designed in a deep, pit fashion. There are no seating rings to the arena, just vertical seating bearing down on the court. To summarize: loud.

At the time, Arizona was a team that rolled teams like the Aztecs and did just that – often heading to the bench to deafening “U-OF-A” chants, the game culminating with an Arizona victory, 69-48.

My mild mannered father and I were enjoying the game, commenting on Marcus Williams’ need to play consistently hard, Budinger’s upside, Jewann McClellan’s sneaky athleticism, and what Mustafa Shakur was supposed to become. On the road, with your team rolling an inferior opponent is convenient and nice and not a time for you to start chirping.

Unless of course a bandwagon SDSU “fan” conveniently at the game to see Lute Olson’s Wildcats decides he needs to start the chirping.

Such became the case for us. Amidst a big Arizona run, one that essentially put the game away in the first half, with my Dad and me and three-quarters of the stadium on their feet cheering Steve Fisher’s forced time out, a San Diego weather fan turned to us and with a hideous scowl and the conviction of a person at his first basketball game turned to us and scathed, “GO HOME!”

Now let me go back to what I’d said earlier, about how my Dad is mild mannered. That’s an understatement. The dude is constantly cool, calm, and collected, a brilliant lawyer, with an answer to any and every problem. But amongst all of my grossly intelligent father’s talents, quick wit and humor are not his strong suits. Hence, neither is significant trash talk. He’s often left that to his two boys, the younger of which (not me) can be hellacious in an opposing arena.

But on this night, with my old man visiting one of his favorite cities, watching his favorite team with his childhood best friend who had gone to blows at my Dad’s defense on more than one occasion as grade schoolers and with his favorite son (yeah, I said that), well, my Dad overcame all of his innately trash talk prohibitive characteristics to provide the single greatest moment in trash talk history.

With the aforementioned San Diego State Bandwagoneer standing a row below us, scowling up and reveling in his mediocre Aztec glory at his witless “GO HOME,” and before I could get anything out regarding SDSU’s lack of relevant athletic anything or welcoming him to his first game, my father promptly and matter of factly, in a perfect tone of equal parts arrogance, certitude and go-fuck-yourself, told said Aztec: “Your lesson’s not over yet.”

My jaw hit the floor as the trash offender meekly turned around to take in the rest of the one-sided game, unsure how to handle the lesson he’d just received. It’s actually taken a few years for me to absorb the magnitude of that moment and just how perfect it was. If hyperbole will allow me, I’ve never been more proud of my Pops.

My immediate and distant futures undoubtedly contain road trips to many more Arizona games, hopefully being highlighted by attending a game on a Monday night in April. This weekend I’ll be in Seattle, once again attending an Arizona road game as part of a bigger celebration of my brother’s birthday. No doubt we’ll have a phenomenal time, remind a few Zags that Cinderella’s slipper can’t be that comfortable for that long, and hopefully not forget our winter coats.

But while I always have a great time watching the ‘Cats, that evening in San Diego will always be tough to top.