SAN DIEGO (AP) - San Diego State is staying out West in the NCAA tournament, given the No. 2 seed as a reward for a 32-2 season.
The Aztecs will open against 15th-seeded Northern Colorado on Thursday at Tucson, Ariz. If they win twice in Tucson, they’ll advance to the regional up the California freeway in Anaheim the following weekend.
“I’m very pleased with the fact we are a 2 seed, which kept us out West,” coach Steve Fisher said Sunday. “Again, you have to win to stay out West. We got about what I hoped we would get.”
It helped that the seventh-ranked Aztecs beat No. 8 BYU for the first time in three tries this season, 72-54 on Saturday in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Now comes the important part for the Aztecs _ breaking the school’s NCAA drought. They are 0-6 overall in the NCAA tournament, including 0-3 under Fisher.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to win our first game,” Fisher said. “We still haven’t won a game yet. We need to go in and not look anywhere beyond Northern Colorado, and knowing as much as we can and preparing as hard as we can to win that first game.”
And there’s a history between the schools. Northern Colorado embarrassed the Aztecs 62-56 in 2006-07, when point guard D.J. Gay was a freshman. The Aztecs won 73-62 at Northern Colorado the following season.
“They’re a very tough team,” Gay said. “They had us booed out of our arena my freshman year. You definitely don’t forget that. So I can’t wait to see them again. I’m happy that we’re in and I’m happy that we’re playing a team that I’m familiar with. I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Northern Colorado (21-10) earned its first NCAA berth by beating Montana for the Big Sky Conference tournament championship.
The SDSU-Northern Colorado winner will face the Penn State-Temple winner.
“We as coaches know that we can’t start looking to say, ‘OK, let’s get ready for Temple or Penn State,’” Fisher said. “We better put all our energy into making sure we are ready for Northern Colorado in that first game.”
SDSU’s previous highest seed was No. 11, both last year and in 2006. This is the first time in school history the Aztecs are making consecutive appearances in the NCAA tournament. They lost to Tennessee last year, 62-59.
“We’ve had a marvelous, magical, sometimes people say, once-in-a-lifetime season _ 32 wins,” Fisher told a crowd of about 2,500 that watched the selection show at Viejas Arena.
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