This is about the time of year Aztecs Mania starts to sweep the county. San Diego State is in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history. When that happens, everyone in the entire athletic department gets excited.
Head football coach Rocky Long even re-shuffled his Spring practice schedule, getting on the field on Mondays and Wednesdays so the student-athletes could be available to watch the basketball team play on Thursdays and Saturdays.
"I wish I was going to Anaheim," said coach Long, referring to Thursday's game against Arizona at the Honda Center. "
I'm fairly certain coach Long is not putting his phantom cash on the Wildcats. Arizona may have bested the Aztecs at Viejas Arena in the second game of the year, on November 14, 2013. But that was a long time ago.
"Well that was at the beginning of the season," said sophomore guard Winston Shepard. "I think our team was still getting figured out. I think people are settling into their roles now at this point in the season, and I think we're a much better team. We'll wait to see how that goes on Thursday."
Plus, Mountain West Conference 6th Man of the Year Dwayne Polee did not play one single minute that November night, something coach Fisher is still lamenting.
"I wish I had at least given him a chance to play in the first game," said Fisher. "It was me. It was a coach's decision. You know, through the course of a season you have a rotation, and sometimes it never changes, and sometimes it does change. With us it changed. Dwayne went from ninth or tenth man on the pecking order to our sixth starter."
In the first two NCAA Tournament games, Polee was the Aztecs' second-leading scorer. Polee has earned himself some national recognition ... and a couple new nicknames.
"I heard (CBS Sports announcer) Doug Gottlieb called me the ‘Tram-Polee’ and ‘Human Pogo Stick,’" said Polee. So how does the normally reserved junior feel about the new attention?
"I think it's exciting. You can't really create your own nickname. So when someone calls you a nickname, everybody just runs with it, and it's really exciting."
Oh, and, which nickname does he like better?
"Tram-Polee because it includes my name in it."
Polee is being singled out as the number one reason the Aztecs have a chance to beat the Wildcats, who have not gotten a chance to see his explosiveness yet.
"This time around I'm going to be ready to help my team do whatever they need me to do."
The Aztecs are hoping Polee can help them leap past the Wildcats and in to the Elite 8 by jump-starting their offense, which is still trying to find a consistent scoring threat to complement Xavier Thames. Or, maybe they already have one.
"I've got one more secret weapon that I'm saving for Thursday," said coach Fisher. "We played a 1-3-1 zone (in the regular season finale against New Mexico), we had that up our sleeve. So we have one more thing that we're keeping in the shadows until we play Arizona that I'll refuse to divulge right now."
They'll need something. Arizona leads the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency (basically, how well they played defense based on the level of the competition). The Aztecs, no defensive slouches themselves, are seventh in that category. Las Vegas has the over/under on this game at 122 points, the lowest of any Sweet 16 match up.
You know, just in case coach Long is interested (which I know he's not, so do not call the NCAA!).