Tuesday, February 24, 2009


[Editor's Note: 619 Sports is thrilled to add the talents of Chris Ello to our emerging webspace.  If you know me, you definitely know Chris, another relentlessly local broadcaster who dates back to the original XTRA Sports 690.  Chris begins contributing to our space right now with the column below.  And here's the goofiest pic of him I could find on the Internets!]

Trust is a major issue in any relationship (just ask my wife). Lack of trust is why I have problems believing that the San Diego State men’s basketball team is really going to make it to the NCAA Tournament this season.


When you look at the Aztecs, you honestly can’t see where they could go wrong. They have a coach in Steve Fisher with an NCAA Championship pedigree. They have -- in Lorrenzo Wade -- the Mountain West Conference’s most complete player. And they have -- in Richie Williams, Kyle Spain, Ryan Amoroso, Tim Shelton, Billy White, D.J. Gay and Mehdi Cheriet -- the deepest collection of talent perhaps anywhere on the West Coast.


Wade, Spain and Williams are three of the greatest players ever to wear the Red and Black -- and all three are in their senior seasons. They’ve been through all the wars. Everything they’ve worked for and planned for has set them up for this moment.


Teetering on the bubble. Four games left. Three of the four at Cox Arena, where they’ve lost only once all season. The only road game a trip to T.C.U., to face a team they beat the first time around by 17 and which has lost seven of its last eight games.


Win four games -- and regardless of what else happens -- they’ll finish 22-7 and they’ll be in the Big Dance. It’s all right there for them. They’ve got to do it. They just have to. They will.


Or will they?


Well…here’s where I start to run into those trust issues. And who could possibly blame me?


We all know that when the Aztecs play at their best, there’s no team in the Mountain West who can take them down. But we also know that the Aztecs don’t always play at their best. And that, my friends, is where we run into problems.


Earlier this season, during non-conference play, SDSU had three solid opportunities to post one -- just one -- resume-building victory. But on each occasion, they failed -- losing to Arizona State, Arizona and St. Mary’s.


As a result, the Aztecs entered conference play with little or no margin for error. Nevertheless, errors have been made. A loss at Wyoming, which currently sits in the bottom half of the conference standings…a rather kick-back effort and loss at B.Y.U….A first-place showdown at Utah dissolving into a mess of a second half…and then a mess of an entire game last weekend at New Mexico.


Every time SDSU has glimpsed the promised land, they have cowered in its presence. And now opportunity knocks one last time. If Wade, Spain and Williams don’t answer this time, the door will shut forever.


It won’t be easy. Included in the three home games are visits from both B.Y.U. and U.N.L.V. -- who along with the Aztecs were the preseason conference favorites. Neither the Cougars nor the Runnin’ Rebs can afford to lose either. So which team in going to stand up?

There’s also the sticky matter of having to deal with Utah, which is surprisingly at the top of the league standings, currently at 10-2. SDSU, BYU and New Mexico are 8-4. UNLV is 8-5. The good news is that the Utes still have to play BYU, New Mexico and UNLV. The bad news is that if they hang on to first place, they’d all but be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA’s.


With only three bids likely this season, BYU -- which has one quality non-conference win at Utah State -- and UNLV -- which has two, versus Arizona and at Louisville -- would probably fall in line ahead of the Aztecs. If the conference nets four NCAA teams, it might come down to State and New Mexico, and we know who just beat who by 26 points last Saturday afternoon.


The Aztecs could somehow win all four of their remaining games, and still have to win the MWC Tournament as well.


And though they are certainly more than capable of doing all of that….I -- well -- I still have those trust issues.

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