On the day San Diego State announced it would leave the Mountain West in 2013-14, it also became clear the Aztecs basketball program plans on a hegemonic reign in the Big West.
After all, the Aztecs are the ones coming off a Sweet 16 appearance in March. They trumpeted discussions with Connecticut to schedule a home-and-home series in the future with their new Big East partner. And they were able to get to the negotiating table with a powerhouse in part because the Big West has agreed to limit the conference schedule to 14 games despite it being an 11-team league upon SDSU's arrival.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the shortened schedule was something the school really wanted and was able to get.
Fourteen is also the number of conference basketball games that SDSU coach Steve Fisher lobbied hard for -- "I voiced my opinion," as he put it -- in negotiations with the Big West as the Aztecs sought a home for their other sports after announcing a 2013 move to the Big East in football only. The Big West will have 11 member schools by 2013, and a balanced schedule would mean 20 conference games.
That would leave Fisher with only 10 or 11 to get enough high-profile games to offset the expected dip in power rating from playing in a league that last season was ranked 25th nationally out of 33 conferences. Fewer conference games mean more nonconference games -- 16 or 17 with a 14-game Big West schedule – and that, Fisher said, "gives us latitude and flexibility."
"I think we'll have enough wiggle room," Fisher said, "where we could get an at-large bid."
Of course, life in the Big West will be an adjustment for San Diego State as well even if it is the top dog. The Aztecs won't be able to plan on NCAA tournament berths if they lose too many conference games and fail to pick up resume-building wins in the non-conference.
Despite the Big West's television deals and the recent rise of Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara, the league still doesn't get much national recognition. And while it's nice for the Big West to increase its profile in Southern California, a market dominated by USC and UCLA leaves schools like Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine in the shadows.
Visibility can be improved, but only if other programs raise the bar as well. They'll have to do so to compete with the riches of San Diego State.
For now, it remains clear that while SDSU is set to become the Big West's crown jewel, the league still has its doubters even among those who support the Aztecs.
Here's former San Diego State star Lorrenzo Wade tweeting about the move to the Big West, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
"I would have NEVER transferred to SDSU if they were in the Big West … I’m an Aztec but it’s a terrible Bball conference."
Within minutes, Wade’s comments were retweeted by a New Mexico fan to Winston Shepard, a four-star recruit from Las Vegas – where Wade also grew up – who has SDSU and the Lobos among his finalists. That prompted current Aztecs basketball player Tim Shelton to tweet Wade: “Can we please not go there Zo … Lol. Sensitive subject this whole big west talk.”