While the San Diego State Aztecs weren't able to play on their home court at Viejas Arena in the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament, there are no NCAA rules prohibiting them from turning the Honda Center into a home court advantage in the Sweet Sixteen on Thursday.
Just 90 miles up the road from San Diego, Anaheim is an easy road trip for San Diego State players and coaches as well as their growing fan base. The student section, called "The Show," is one of the best in the country. You can hear them chant Po-lee, Po-lee, Po-lee, Po-lee after Dwayne Polee II knocks down a three pointer. And listen for the "woos" after a made free throw.
This will be only the second Sweet Sixteen appearance for San Diego State men's basketball in school history. The first time came in 2011 at the very same Honda Center. Their opponent, Connecticut, went on to win the NCAA Championship after defeating the Aztecs 74-67. Until now, that was the best team in San Diego State history. A 34-3 team that launched NBA careers for Kawhi Leonard, Jamaal Franklin and Malcolm Thomas. None of the current Aztecs players played in that game, but Xavier Thames was on the bench as a redshirt transfer, soaking it all in.
The Aztecs have some more recent and more successful history in the building. On December 1, 2012, San Diego State defeated UCLA 78-69 in the John R. Wooden Classic at the Honda Center. They outplayed the Bruins on the court and outnumbered their fans in the seats.
Earlier this season, it was the performance of Thames and San Diego State at the revised Wooden Legacy tournament that thrust them into the public eye. Thames was recognized as the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament. This was the first of many accolades for him this season as he went on to become the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year.
Winning the Wooden Legacy also turned the Aztecs from a team receiving no votes in the AP Poll to a team that was suddenly ranked No. 24. Successive wins over No. 20 Creighton and No. 25 Marquette gave them the positive national exposure necessary to break into the Top 25.
Regardless of their opponent on Thursday, the Aztecs will feel comfortable at the Honda Center and have a great chance to add to the winning tradition of San Diego State basketball.