This was supposed to be the mulligan year for the San Diego State Aztecs, the hiccup after a record-setting season that brought Steve Fisher back to the forefront of college athletics.
So much for that theory. The Aztecs are ranked 17th and are 18-3 overall.
Last week the run to another win hit a speed bump. Or two.
San Diego State was supposed to arrive at Laramie for a game against Wyoming at 7 p.m. the night before tipoff. Lousy weather led to a slight 17-hour delay. The Aztecs got to town at noon, and though they won the game, four nights later it was a different story.
Colorado State ended the Aztecs' 11-game win streak with a 77-60 win.
On Wednesday night, San Diego State hosts Boise State, hoping to prove to doubters that the loss -- not all of the wins before -- was the exception to the rule.
We caught up with Fisher late Tuesday, after he’d finished a practice.
So are you as surprised at your team’s success as everyone else?
Steve Fisher: To be honest, I’m pleasantly surprised we’ve got the record we do. I thought we had a chance to be a good team, but I didn’t know what that meant, given our pre-conference schedule and opening up with Vegas and New Mexico. But we’ve played with a toughness and we’re a pretty good shooting team, at least until the last game. So I’m very happy with how we’ve performed.
What this team did last year, part of the seven years we’ve had here is that there are now expectations from within. These guys expect to win. That’s the mentality we have. You know, even really good programs, storied programs have bad years. Take a look at Pittsburgh this year. Things happen, even in programs everyone agrees are good programs.
That’s where we are now. I’m not trying to fool people. People now say that San Diego State has a good program. They say that and they believe it. It’s not just me saying it anymore.
How rough was the past week, with the travel problems to Wyoming?
SF: I don’t know. It would be demeaning of Colorado State to say we weren’t ready because of what happened at Wyoming. They just played better than we did. They played with more urgency and that’s a credit to them.
We have to look ourselves in the mirror. People don’t care if you have travel problems or if you have a cold.
The fact is, we shot poorly and that caused a little additional mental fatigue because we were forced to play slower than we normally would.
How did your players bounce back?
SF: Well, we talked about it. The fact that we’re playing at home is helpful. We have a great home crowd but there’s got to be a pride factor.
They’ve been very good all year. I’m really enjoying this team. They listen, they prepare and they’ve been very good. People are starting to tell them that. The trick is you can’t let that allow you to take a deep breath. You have to continue to prove as if you still have something to prove.
For everyone who thinks we’re really good, there are some who say, especially now after the loss, "Well yeah, but," or "I told you they weren’t that good." So you’ve got to continue to push.
How tough is the Mountain West?
SF: Everybody knew all about us last year, with us and with Jimmer. But this year, there are no gimmes. You talk about Las Vegas and New Mexico, but there’s not much difference between the next three or even the last two. This is a good basketball league.
Do you feel like your team is carrying the torch for West Coast basketball?
SF: Look, there are plenty of reasons to watch, starting with our league and us, which is most important to me. But also with what Vegas is done, how good they are, and New Mexico. Saint Mary’s, Gonzaga are both terrific.
We may not have the tradition or the marquee of over 50 years like the Pac-12 or be those bluebloods, but we all play some doggone good basketball.
Most people say right now that the Mountain West is better than the Pac-12 and I wouldn’t disagree.