Tuesday, March 31, 2009
- This is an exciting day for SDSU basketball, the unversity, the students, and the long-suffering fans. The semifinals of the NIT aren't the same as the NCAA Final Four, but for this school it's their greatest achievment to date. And, unlike so many San Diego sports stories that have come before, there is no Goliath currently standing in the way. Baylor is a good team, and they've been hot in the postseason to be sure. But it's not the '84 Tigers, or the '94 49ers, or the '98 Yankees across the court. It's not even the Stanford team that swamped SDSU women's basketball earlier this month. This is an opponent the Aztecs can match up against. A heavily guard-oriented team that likes to run and gun but is a bit lax on defense. If Steve Fisher's boys bring their lunchpails tonight and commit to the hard-nosed defense that has been their trademark this year, they should be able to light the flashbulbs at Madison Square Garden with some exciting plays in transition and off of turnovers. I'm expecting a really good game, and it will be up to Williams and Spain outside defensively to stop penetration by Curtis Jerrells and Tweety Carter. This is the opportunity so many of these Aztecs have been waiting for, and they are going to take advantage and get noticed on the national stage. Tune in today to AM-600 KOGO, where I will be hosting a special one-hour pregame show today at 3pm. Yeah, it's hilarious, back in the building again. UCSD head coach Chris Carlson is going to join me as an in-studio analyst for the entirety of the game.
- Oh, by the way, what scares me the most about Baylor? Their hot run coincided with their switching to a 2-3 zone for the Big 12 tourney. Uh oh. The zone has been the bane of this Aztecs' team for years. Beating an old bugaboo: it's becoming a bit of a theme this postsesason. First St. Mary's, now a zone team. Time to hit some outside shots, Spain/Wade/Williams. And if DJ Gay could hit another three this YEAR, now would be the time.
- Up until the ceremonial changing of the guard between John Moores and Jeff Moorad on Thursday, this was shaping up as one of the bleakest preseasons in the bleak history of the San Diego Padres. Now, at least, the feel changes for 2009 and moving forward. Sandy Alderson is gone, and that's an instant plus, on the field and in the important field of public perception. Whatever good he did while he was here, Alderson will be remembered as the man who ran out Trevor, treated Khalil Greene like a bad schoolboy, alienated the team from its fans, and handled the players like some bizarre bespectacled vice-principal. Between Alderson's autocratic rule, the bizarre who's-in-charge configuration of the front office, and the Moores' divorce, the Padres were caught in a death spiral. Moorad stops that. The team's going to be bad this year, there's little doubt about that. But instead of feeling like an endless slog, at least we'll be able to say 2009 is the start of something, namely the Moorad Era in San Diego. An owner who was an agent himself, who understands the value of premium talent, who's not going to bait-and-switch his scouting department into taking a bargain-basement bust with the #3 pick in the draft this summer. It will be something to keep in mind while you're choking down your $5 food-o-rama at Petco Park this summer, watching Eulogio De La Cruz walk the bases loaded.
- Baseball America has Tony Gwynn's Aztecs at #21 this morning, as the boys wake up in Santa Barbara and get ready to battle the Gauchos this afternoon. Chris Ello has the call at 2pm on www.goaztecs.com. I watched all three games from TCU on my laptop last weekend, and was not surprised to see another 9th inning uprising on Sunday. Four times this year, SDSU has rallied in their final at-bat to win, and they turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory in Fort Worth on Sunday, claiming the series from 16th ranked TCU and establishing themselves in the national rankings. This will be an exciting and challenging week for the Aztecs. A home-and-home two-game set with the 20th ranked Gauchos begins today, followed by a four-game weekend series against UC Davis. The Aggies series will feature Strasburg pitching at Petco Park on Friday afternoon, and a Saturday doubleheader at Tony Gwynn Stadium. Chris and I will call three of the four games on XTRA 1360 this weekend, while the 2nd game of the doubleheader will be exclusively on goaztecs.com. This should be a good week, in that what is really being challenged is the Aztecs' depth in the rotation, and they should be able to roll out O'Sullivan, Simmons, Strasburg, Berger, Lavigne and Solow without asking the bullpen to really get taxed.
- So Shawne Merriman says he "feels great and looks amazing"? Good news for Chargers fans, and a great excuse for me to link to Stephen Colbert's amusing riff last night on narcissism. Enjoy!
Monday, March 30, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Hell, I don't know...I'm not a Hall of Famer in.....well....in anything....Unless you wanna' count stuff like Mowing Down Ribs at a Buffet, Taking Long Afternoon Naps, Seinfeld Trivia or Worst NCAA Tournament Bracket Ever Recorded.
And, of course, you're no Hall of Famer either....so that pretty much puts both of us in the same boat.
Last couple of days, however, I've had the chance to be a little closer to an actual Hall of Famer. A real one, who lives in our very midst.....the great Tony Gwynn. You know, of Baseball Hall of Fame -- er, -- fame.
And I'm hear to tell you that maybe the greatest compliment I could ever pay to Tony Gwynn -- and I've paid a lot of them over the years -- is that when you're around him....you simply don't feel like you're around a Hall of Famer.
At least in my mind, the life of a Hall of Famer is all about limos and chauffeurs...and free dinners with no tips...and adoring masses and adulation...and big pay-day speaking appearances with rubber chicken and strawberry shortcake.
Hall of Famers move among us with entourages and tinted windows....with designer suits and $200-dollar shades....on private jet airplanes with champagne and caviar...with not a care in the world.... but always with a Sharpie in hand ready to make a few more bucks by signing the collar of your grandmother's poodle.
The life of Tony Gwynn is nothing like any of that, however. Or at least it hasn't been this weekend.
I shuttled on to the San Diego State baseball team's bus Thursday morning with the destination being Fort Worth, Texas, as the Aztecs (16-8 and not doing too badly, thank you) prepared for a three-game weekend series against three-time defending Mountain West Conference champion TCU.
Surely, I figured, the Aztecs' head coach (must be a figure-head title, I thought) would not be joining us for the ride to the airport....After all, Hall of Famers don't ride buses. Do they?
Well, this one does -- and he did. In fact, he was sitting right there in the front seat, and he was ready with a quick quip about my relaxed travel attire. (First, I was definitely under-dressed. Second, one need not be a Hall of Famer in most cases to find fault with my choice of clothing. My wife's no Hall of Famer, and she finds fault with it all the time).
Once at Lindberg Field, I awaited the whisking away of Mr. Gwynn to some remote, off-limits airport location so he could at least cool his heels before the flight. But it never happened.
Not only did Cal Ripken's HOF classmate carry his own bags, but he waited IN THE BACK OF THE LINE while his troupe of scruffy-faced collegians checked in at the American Airlines ticket counter ahead of him.
As we lined up for departure, an absolutely crazy thing happened. Some bag check guy recognized ME and wanted to chat me up about some NFL football (how one gets recognized from being on the radio, I have no idea).....all the while I was wondering when the wide-eyed fellow would recognize the guy standing directly behind me and completely lose his mind.
But Tony Gwynn got on the plane with nary a glance -- not from the bag check guy, or anyone else, for that matter. And then something else surprising happened.
I turned right once in the airplane door to go take my seat in coach along with all the players -- and Mr. Hall of Famer turned right and took his seat in coach as well. (Maybe coaches are supposed to fly coach, but I thought in this instance, perhaps it would be different).
Once in Fort Worth, the team was hungry and I figured the following would happen: we'd all be dropped off for a fast-food feast at McDonald's, and the Greatest Hitter of the last Half-Century would be met by City dignitaries and shown the biggest table at the the finest restaurant on the top floor of most plush five-star hotel in town. (That's assuming, of course, that there is such a thing in Fort Worth).
This is what did happen: we were all bused to some Texas Ranch-style buffet place for dinner, and everybody paid their own way -- including Mr. Padre, who reached into his own wallet and paid his own $12.40 tab like everybody else.
When Tony Gwynn took the job as San Diego State's head baseball coach seven seasons ago, most thought it was just a temporary move. After all, why would anybody of Gwynn's stature want to deal with the rigors of college baseball? The buses, the roadside diners, the cheap hotels, the life as far outside the limelight as possible?
The reason, as it turns out, is that Tony Gwynn is really just everyman. Hall of Famer in Cooperstown, but just simply college baseball coach in San Diego. He has simple tastes and wants a simple life. He has goals, just like the rest of us, and he doesn't plan on stopping until he attains them.
Through his first six years as the leader of the Aztecs, he hasn't had the success he thought he would have: just one league title and no NCAA Tournament appearances. He's had to work harder than he thought, and he's had to learn patience while youngsters struggle to accomplish what he accomplished so easily before them.
Most Hall of Famers are off somewhere else enjoying the good life. Tony Gwynn is still in their battling every day like the rest of us.
A pretty good life, indeed.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Late add: here is Rob Neyer writing a similar column, but MUCH better. Note how he just lets the facts tell the story. His discussion of Ben McDonald's a little different from Boswell's, isn't it?
Well...the above quote was probably written by some guy who lost...but, just the same, every now again there's some truth to the old saying.
Best example I can think of is the San Diego State women's basketball team, which was eliminated last night in the second round the NCAA Tournament by powerhouse Stanford, 77-49.
They surely didn't win...and they certainly did lose...but how they played the game was still something to behold.
No team I've seen in recent memory plays as hard as coach Beth Burns' Aztecs, and few play with as much heart...And though it can be difficult to please the bean counters who look only at results, there should still be room in sports to at least appreciate the effort.
One quick look at San Diego State, and then across the court at mighty Stanford, during the pregame warmups was enough to give away the game's eventual outcome...On the Aztecs side, just two players taller than 6-feet, and both slight of build...On the Stanford side, an entire team of 6-footers, and none slight of build.
How in world could San Diego State possibly win this thing? And the plain truth simply is that they couldn't....Stanford dominated the paint with its power and size so decisively that the Cardinal needed only to make one outside jump shot the entire game.
Time and again, with the ease of Jim Brown running over a high school secondary, Stanford pounded the ball inside for easy baskets...By the time it was over, the nation's No. 2-ranked team has scored 26 baskets -- and 25 of them were scored on layups.
The Cardinal's muscle-bound front line not only scored at will, but it punished San Diego State's smaller defenders so effectively that it seemed as if the entire Aztec team would foul out by halftime.
It was the men against the boys -- or in this case the women against the girls.
Nevertheless, Stanford did not march on to the Sweet 16 with complete ease...and that's because the spirit of San Diego State never waned, and the pressure provided on the perimeter by the Aztecs' athletic guards never wavered.
San Diego State scrapped and fought and battled for the entire 40 minutes...and the Aztecs' hearts never stopped beating even long after the issue had been decided.
Jene Morris, SDSU's brilliant guard who scored an NCAA Tournament-high 35 points in Saturday's dramatic first-round victory over DePaul, was relentless throughout and finished with a game-high six steals to go along with her team-high 14 points.
At just 5-feet-9 against Stanford's lineup of giants, Morris pressed the issue the entire night and drove Stanford's ball-handlers crazy...Sure, Stanford will move on but it's a pretty safe bet that the Cardinal is happy they won't have to deal with Morris any longer.
Jene's running mate in the backcourt, Quenese Davis -- also just 5-feet-9 -- played with undying energy and enthusiasm, working alongside Morris to pressure the ball for 94 feet of hardwood and forty minutes of game as well.
Coco Davis, SDSU's 5-foot-9 foward, time and again went to the hoop against Stanford's massive front line and was one of the reasons the Aztecs were able to foul-out All-American 6-foot-4 center Jayne Appel.
You don't see a lot of teams losing by nearly 30 given a standing ovation by the home crowd as its key players exit the game in the final moments...But that's what happened last night at Cox Arena.
The tribute, of course, was not about the winning and losing...but it was simply about the way they played the game.
San Diego State finished 24-and-8 and accomplished so much this season, that last night's loss could do nothing to take away from it....The Aztecs beat a ranked team (No. 4 Texas) for the first time in 14 years, won the Mountain West Conference title for the first time in 12 years, made the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years, and won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 15 years.
Afterward, the Aztecs locker room was hardly somber...that's because one gets the feeling that what was accomplished this season was just the beginning...Both guards, Morris and Davis, will be back next year for their senior seasons...All-Conference center Paris Johnson will only be a junior...and two All-Conference-type front-court power forwards, Allison Duffy and Jessica Bradley, will join them.
For now...there's just no beating a powerhouse like Stanford (unless you're top-ranked UConn, whom the Cardinal will no doubt face this year in the Final Four).
But last night was a reminder that it isn't always just about winning...and the way these Aztecs play the game, next season should be a lot of fun.
Monday, March 23, 2009
With one on and two out in the sixth, Johnson allowed Curtis Granderson, a left-handed hitter, to face the same lefty. Pinch-hitting in that spot would have carried consequences, forcing the defensively challenged Dunn to remain in right field the entire game. But why was Victorino the only outfielder on the bench?
Because the Team USA braintrust had declined to replace the injured Kevin Youkilis with another position player for the final round, choosing only to summon Longoria in place of Chipper Jones.
The addition of Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore would have given Johnson the flexibility to hit Victorino for Granderson and go with a late-inning outfield of Ryan Braun in left, Sizemore in center and Victorino in right.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
- When the SDSU baseball team catches the ball, they can shut down just about any team with their pitching staff. When they fail to catch the ball, games such as last night's 6-2 loss to BYU happen. With two outs in the 3rd and nobody on, Nate Solow gave up a little chop single to left, just off Erik Castro's glove. Next, BYU's big hitter Sean McNoughton hit a little ground ball to short, easiest play in the world. Ryan O'Sullivan didn't get in front of it and tried to pluck the ball, and it stayed down when his glove came up. The error opened the gates, and as has happened many times in Nate Solow's career, trouble followed. Nate walked the next better on four pitches, and then grooved a 2-1 fastball to Brandon Relf, who ripped a three-run double down the left-field line. 3-1 BYU, and their pro prospect starter Jeremy Toole, with a mid-'90s fastball and just-OK slider, worked 8 strong innings to protect it. The Cougars made every play in the field, including two double plays, a diving catch in center, and a runner thrown out at home plate. The Aztecs gave up two more unearned runs in the 8th on three walks and a missed flyball in right by Cory Vaughn. Realistically SDSU could have won the game 2-1 if they had just made routine plays in the field. Oh well, six-game winning streak by the boards. Strasburg throws tonight, so get there early, hoping for another 2000+ crowd.
- Oh, just mentioning it again, the BYU/SDSU game tonight will be on XTRA 1360, and I will be doing the play-by-play. 5:45pm pregame, 6:05 first pitch. Somehow that information didn't make the U-T this morning but did find its way to the North County Times. Tomorrow's game will be on the radio as well, a 1pm start. That's part of a 619 Sports-laced doubleheader, as I hand off after the game to Chris Ello at Cox Arena for the SDSU women's first-round NCAA game against DePaul, a 5pm tipoff.
- I really wish I could be in two places at once, because the SDSU 2nd round NIT game tonight should be a unique affair. USD's Jenny Craig Pavilion packed with Aztecs fans, and Kansas State in town. The smaller venue and the out-of-place feel might even enhance the experience. I hope the atmosphere and energy lift the Aztecs, because there is some concern about the matchup. The Wildcats have the size underneath to make life very difficult for SDSU.
- 3 hours, 42 minutes. That was last night's time-of-game for the Korea/Japan game at Petco Park. A 6-2 game. Way. Too. Slow. Add the postseason-style ad package to any baseball game and you instantly make the game far less enjoyable. The slow pace of international play just adds to this. And, the games are played at times when nobody in their right mind would be watching past the West Coast. I've got to say, as a big-time fan and supporter of the WBC from the start, they are losing me a bit this time with the space between games and the pace of games. How can you get a feel as a team when you've played six games in well over two weeks?
- So much of what's wrong with the WBC comes from the half-in, half-out mentality of MLB. The 2nd and 3rd rounds are played in the U.S., and spring training is extended and revised to make room for the Classic. But clubs are wary about risking their stars to the competition, and stars are concerned about injury and disruption. To me it's clear what needs to happen. Every four years, you actually treat this thing like a World Cup or Olympics. You bring MLB to a halt for four weeks in the middle of the season. Right smack dab in the middle of summer. Everyone plays. All the stars are in midseason form, the arms are stretched out and loosened up, and you'll find the players loosening their fears about playing for their country. It's all about routine for baseball players. March is for conditioning, not angry games. June-July is for playing ball. Put the classic at a time when it can be played well. Add games to the schedule. Let people grow and fall in love with the teams, instead of barely being introduced to them before they are gone.
- Oh, but but but...what about the money lost by stopping the season? What about all the other players, what do they do? Figure it out. The NHL closed down for the Winter Olympics. Soccer clubs loan players and make adjustments. This is what I mean: if you're REALLY committed to the idea of a WBC, go all-in to make it a great event. This half in-half out mentality leads to a half-assed Classic which still is OK but could be much, much better.
- Maybe it was just the weak slate of games yesterday until the UCLA game at night, but the first day of March Madness didn't really grab me like it normally does. I mentioned it in the comments of yesterday's thread, but once again, the networks are doing their best to ruin the sports they pay ungodly sums of money to broadcast. College hoops games should be 2 hours, period. Adding 30 minutes of ads and promos just makes the game uneven and fitful in its pace. And I really am trying not to wish ill on the obnoxiously precocious "very smart little girl" who wants to have her "big girl seat" in the Chevy pickup truck. Please go away from my life "very smart little girl", and never return.
- Spring has officially begun. This pleases me. Last winter sucked.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
For #4, let's go into the wayback machine for New Year's Day, which I personally prefer over Sunday Bloody Sunday, just because it's got a little more depth and singability. A live performance from 1983, check out the differences in the band from 26 years before!
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The Aztecs were stuck because Cox Arena is being used all weekend for the NCAA Women's Tournament (more below)...Without Snyder's good will, Steve Fisher and company would have had to travel to Kansas State, thereby forfeiting their home-court advantage....
Nicely done, Ky...
Oh...and about SDSU...word is that the Aztecs were willing to give away their second-round game....unitl Fisher himself stepped in and demanded that the NIT find a way for the second-round game to be played in San Diego....Never mind that the SDSU Athletic Department apparently felt that it had exhausted all options.
Fisher and the NIT -- working with Snyder -- got the job done, so that SDSU could play in front of its home fans....
A birdie told me that some felt the Aztecs' heirarchy were too quick to give away the game because the second-round opponent was likely to be Kansas State (which it is)...Don't know why that would be...but SDSU Athletic Director Jeff Schemmel is a K-State alum.
Anyway....the bottom line is that USD does things right...San Diego State has to start doing things right.
Speaking of USD, everything with its men's basketball program suddenly has gone all wrong...It was just one year ago that I was sitting in a Mexican restaurant in Arizona, munching some chips and guacamole, when De'Jon Jackson hit the shot the toppled UConn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament....The restaurant in Arizona went wild.
Me included....Though like Ky Snyder, I'll always be an Aztec at heart, it was wonderful to finally see a team from San Diego come through on the national stage (quick, tell me the last time that happened).
But this year has been a mess for the Toreros....first guard Brandon Johnson suffers a devastating knee injury that takes him out for the season...then Trumaine Johnson gets kicked off the team...then, with the WCC Tourney no longer in San Diego, they get wiped out quickly by Santa Clara in the quarterfinals...now forward Rob Jones says he wants to transfer so he can be closer to his ailing father (nothing wrong with that).
But unfortunately, that USD win over UConn now seems like it was a long, long time ago...and getting back to that stage for Coach Bill Grier and crew seems like it is a long, long ways away.
So...this college basketball postseason belongs to San Diego State...and especially to Beth Burns' women's team...A bit more than a year ago, SDSU was awarded with hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Cox Arena for 2009...It was at that moment, the young Aztecs made it their goal to be there.
And so now they have accomplished that goal....this Saturday at 5 p.m. SDSU (seeded 10th in the Berkely Regional) will meet 7th-seeded DePaul in the women's Big Dance...not bad for a program that went 0-and-16 in conference play just three years ago.
Burns' team went 14-and-0 at Cox this season...and to remind her squad of their home-court dominance, T-Shirts were purchased for the players last week with "OUR HOUSE" printed on the front and "14-AND-0" printed on the back.
Led by super-athletic guards Quenese Davis and Jene' Morris, and 6-foot, 4-inch center Paris Johnson (all underclassmen), the Aztecs are maybe a year ahead of schedule...But they might just be precocious enough to believe they can advance Saturday night.
It wouldn't hurt the cause, of course, if the San Diego fans would come out and represent...tickets are still available, and this club deserves a solid crowd of at least 6,000 for the big event.
And then there was the big event that just finished up in San Diego...the World Baseball Classic at Petco Park...Japan (the defending WBC champs) and Korea (the defending Olympic Gold Medalists) advanced to the finals...I tell you this, because I'm figuring very few of you were paying much attention.
Despite Mexico's inclusion in the field (the U.S. team played its 2nd-round series in Miami), the crowds at Petco looked like a Padres-Nationals game in late August. (Though the fans that were there were far more spirited).
Bottom line: San Diego sports fans don't like it when their teams and their city are overlooked and forgotten about...but when the fans overlook and forget about big events...well, as the old saying goes, you are what you are (thanks, A.J.).
- Why are WBC games as long as World Series games? I set up last night's Puerto Rico-USA game to tape for 4 hours and still came up short for a 9-inning game. Grr. Yay for the USA comeback in the 9th, though. Now Peavy will get one more chance for redemption, at his favorite stadium in which to pitch, Dodger Stadium.
- A great first step to redemption for the Aztecs' men last night against Weber State. Chris was there so I'll leave the analysis to him, but if SDSU can get past their 2nd round opponent and a pretend home court at USD on Friday, they could possibly earn a rematch with St. Mary's and a chance to exorcise one of their demons from this season.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Fox News has had better in-depth analysis than this, although actually the similarities are strikingly familiar.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Throughout this season, the trio -- along with center Ryan Amoroso and backup guard Matt Thomas -- have been referred to on many occasions as the best Senior class in San Diego State basketball history.
The references, I'm sure, are flattering...but at this point in time, they are far from accurate. I mean, let's take a look at what they've accomplished: as freshmen, they rode the coat tails of Marcus Slaughter and Brandon Heath to a Mountain West Conference title -- then immediately were ridden out of the NCAA Tournament by Indiana....as sophomores, again it was Heath who led them, this time to the NIT where a magical shot by the sharp-shooting guard at least earned them one victory, over Southwest Missouri...as juniors, they again fell short of the big dance and hardly even looked the part of a postseason team, rolling over in favor of Florida. Spain, in fact, wasn't even around for the disasterous conclusion, having been suspended from the team for a second time.
Wade joined Spain on the police blotter prior to the start of this season, and Williams has been in trouble off the court as well during his career....So, back to the beginning: just how do they want to be remembered? What happens in the NIT, which begins tonight when the Aztecs host Weber State (7 p.m., Cox Arena), will go a long way towards defining their legacy.
To me -- as it stands now -- Wade, Williams and Spain are nothing more than an example of great talent frittered away. Sure they've won a bunch of games, and there have been some awards sprinkled in. Sure they've helped elevate SDSU basketball to the level of yearly contender (something that Aztec fans could only have dreamed of a decade ago).
But when the chips have all been on the table...when that one victory was needed to push the program over the top...the trio of stars have simply come up short.
How can this possibly be called the greatest Senior class in Aztec history without a single marquis victory anywhere on its resume'?...What I remember about this group is that it didn't even bother to show up last year against Florida....What I remember is that had it won any of its three important non-conference games this season (all losses to Arizona St., Arizona and St. Mary's), it would have made it to the NCAA Tournament...I remember a 14-point second-half lead blown against BYU, a loss that ultimately cost them a share of the Mountain West title and a No. 1-seed in the conference tournament.
Ultimately I remember Saturday afternoon when -- presented with one last chance at the Big Dance -- they rendered dramatic victories over UNLV and BYU useless by stinking up the joint worse than Utah did and losing the MWC Championship Game.
Honestly I'd rather remember Wade, Williams and Spain differently...The three of them have provided some spectacular moments...and perhaps they can provide a few more.
Yes, the NIT isn't the NCAA's...but once again a chance has been presented...a door has been opened...an opportunity has been offered...Beat Weber State, beat either Kansas State or Illinois State in the second round, and get revenge on (probably) St. Mary's in the quarterfinals.
End your careers in Madison Square Garden playing in the NIT semifinals (or even the finals)...Those are the memories I'd rather have.
Meanwhile, the San Diego State women's team -- to me anyway -- has become the polar opposite of the men's team...Beth Burns' squad has not just met expectations, but they have easily surpassed them.
And their reward was a Monday celebration in their Cox Arena locker room when they watched together on television and received news of their NCAA Tournament berth.
To really understand what this accomplishment meant, one needs only to go back three seasons, when SDSU won only three games total and finished an imperfect 0-and-16 in conference play. Change, of course, was needed...and it started with the signing of point guard Quenese Davis and the transfer from Cal to SDSU of athletic two-guard Jene Morris.
Two-time San Diego County Player of the Year center Paris Johnson (from San Diego High) joined the following year as did All-CIF power forward Allison Duffy (from El Capitan High).
Young and precocious, the kids took their lumps for two seasons, but steadily grew together...They made their first mark in last year's conference tournament, upsetting a pair of NCAA teams, Wyoming and TCU, before losing the MWC final to New Mexico.
This year, they shook off a season-ending suspension to Duffy (who is expected back next year) and became champions. They tied for the conference title with a 13-3 mark, and went 23-7 overall...Morris and Johnson were named first-team all-MWC, and Morris was named the conference's defensive player of the year...Davis earned second-team all-MWC honors and became the school's all-time leader in assists...Burns was named Coach of the Year (tends to happen when your team improves by 19 wins over a short three-year span).
Now they'll face 7th-seeded De Paul in the first round of the NCAA's on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Cox Arena...Can they beat the Blue Demons? They absolutely can, if for no other reason than the fact that they went 14-and-0 at home this season (including a win over No. 4-ranked Texas).
After that...they'd almost assuredly meet Pac-10 champ Stanford in the second round...Stanford was the NCAA runner-up last season (beating UConn in the National Semifinals), and they're ranked No. 2 in the country this season....No chance, you say? Well...just keep in mind that the second-round game would be played at Cox as well.
One last note about the women...regardless of what happens this season, this group is still a year ahead of schedule...Next year, Davis and Morris will both be seniors...Johnson and Duffy will be juniors...and Jessica Bradley, an all-Big 12 conference transfer from Baylor, will join the ranks.
The future is even brighter.
Another fantastic performance by the Aztecs' All-American pitcher Stephen Strasburg last Friday, kicking off a three-game weekend sweep by Tony Gwynn's team of UNLV. (By the way, SDSU owns UNLV in everything this year. Football got one of its two wins over the Rebels, both the men's and women's basketball teams were 3-0 vs. Vegas, and now baseball beats 'em three-straight).
But the best pitching performance of the weekend was not turned in by Strasburg, but rather by UCSD senior right-hander Travis Decker, who pitched a no-hitter on Saturday and defeated top-ranked Cal State Stanislaus, 6-0...Decker walked the first two hitters of the game, then retired 20 batters in a row to complete the seven-inning jem.
Decker's effort was the centerpiece of a four-game UCSD sweep of Division II's top-ranked squad and improved the Tritons to 15-7....Nicely done!