I was going to write this either way. Win or lose.
Every year in March I go to the Mountain West Conference Basketball tournament in Las Vegas. My friends and I always have a good time drinking excessively, gambling recklessly and acting obnoxiously as we cheer for San Diego State. It makes for decent #content and is a nice way for me to recap the weekend as I pound kale smoothies on the following Monday, desperately trying to apologize to my body for the hell I put it through.
But before we get to this past weekend, let’s go back a few months to the beginning of the 2017-18 basketball season. After three straight years of significant regression, I implored the SDSU basketball team to “Teach me to love again.”
When this season began in November, I could barely get myself excited enough to read a Mark Zeigler practice update (which is good because he blocked me on Twitter so I don’t know when they’re posted anyway). But here we are in March, and folks, I AM EXTREMELY BACK.
Back when things looked bleak for San Diego State men’s basketball, I would often try to break up all the bitter text in my grim recaps with a few visual aids. One of my favorite crutches was the win probability chart, because, hey, why expend brainpower writing angry words about another brutal loss when you can let a line graph tell the grim tale for you.
Anyway, here is what those charts looked like back then.
Say, would you like to see the win probability chart for the Aztecs’ Mountain West Conference semifinal game against the University of Nevada-Reno on Thursday night?
The Brian Dutcher era at San Diego State started with talk of surrendering defense to facilitate scoring, and that talk mostly came to fruition. This year we’ve seen a faster tempo on offense, running in transition and jacking 3-pointers with impunity. At times it has been beautiful and thrilling. At others — all of late January and early February, for instance — it has been a galling disaster.
In the first round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, we saw our Aztecs revert to a more familiar form. The Aztecs didn’t beat Fresno State on Thursday afternoon with transition buckets or long range marksmanship or anything even vaguely aesthetically pleasing. Instead, as Steve Fisher looked on approvingly from the stands, they brought out their pool cues and tire irons to beat Fresno back onto their team bus.
This game — a 64-52 final — was physical, offensively challenged and generally ugly as sin. If this was the first college basketball game I had ever watched, it might have been enough to steer me away from ever watching another one. But it was vintage SDSU.
Remember last week when I wrote about how my annual trip to Las Vegas for the Mountain West Conference Tournament is the highlight of my year and the weeks leading up to it are filled with giddy anticipation of the delightful frivolity to come?
Well fuck that. That version of me is dead. I am now in post-Vegas recovery mode and I hate everything.
A little less than two months ago, a buddy and I went to a bar in North Park to watch the Aztecs-Boise State hoops game. We were the only two people in the establishment who gave a shit, to be sure, and I got a big eye roll from the bartender when I asked her to change one of the nine TVs showing NFL Network highlights onto ESPNU or whatever jerkwater channel the game was on. Then SDSU proceeded to suffer probably their most brutal, listless, depressing loss in a season of stanky-ass losses.
As you can imagine, I spent that night feeling kind of crappy about my choice of hobbies and my priorities in general.
Right now I’m writing this blog post in the middle of the night (thanks, 8:30 start) one day removed from an international flight and with a long day at work and a 9:30 p.m. game time (fucking hell) looming tomorrow. And you know what? At the moment, I’m good with it.
The San Diego State men’s basketball team, forced to suit up for the play-in round of the Mountain West tournament for the first time ever, overcame a horrific first half to beat the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels 62-52 in overtime. It was a really exciting game in a “this shouldn’t be remotely this stressful” kind of way. It was a game that affirmed the old adage: Never question the heart of a six seed.