Not a rebuilding year for surprising SDSU

Cal coach Mike Montgomery provided some unintended bulletin-board material for San Diego State before the two teams met on Sunday.

From the North County Times.

Earlier in the week, Montgomery offered motivation for the Aztecs to play harder when he said, "It's still a big deal for them to play us, the Pac-12, too."

Montgomery's team was greeted by a raucous student section at the sold out Viejas Arena. One student held a sign that stated "We're kind of a big deal."

Never mind the line from "Anchorman" because San Diego State is a big deal. After beating Cal and previously beating Arizona, the Aztecs have now defeated two ranked Pac-12 teams.

Despite reaching the Sweet 16 in March, it had been uncertain what the Aztecs would look like this season after four starters departed. But the lone returner, Chase Tapley, has stepped forward to lead the team and average 17.2 points. He scored 25 against Cal and hit the free throws to seal the win.

Jamaal Franklin, after serving a suspension for an offseason arrest, has come off the bench to average 15.3 points. LSU transfer Garrett Green, a late offseason pickup, has started every game and leads the team averaging 7.4 rebounds. Washington State transfer Xavier Thames is averaging 12.4 points.

So Montgomery was stating facts when he said of the Aztecs program, "They're really good. They've kind of found a niche in that they get kickbacks. They almost recruit to get guys that are bounce-backs." Thames, one of the transfers Montgomery had noted, told reporters after the game the remarks provided a little bit of motivation and that coach Steve Fisher had talked to the team about them.

But what San Diego State should really be judged on is its 8-2 record and building on its success from a year ago when it very well could have been rebuilding instead.

"We absolutely are (proud)," Fisher said in his postgame radio interview. "I am also realistic enough to know that if you look back at the games, and the closeness of those games, they could have gone (the other way), but they didn't. To our credit, our kids' credit, 8-2 is well deserved and very much hard-fought."