San Diego State's (25-9, 16-2) impressive streak of consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances was snapped on Sunday afternoon, heading into the day they held the 8th longest in the nation at 6 ahead of even traditional powers such as North Carolina and Kentucky.
SDSU coaches, players, and fans had become accustomed to winning and playing at the biggest of stages that it is understandable that once the NIT came knocking on the door nobody reacted with a smile on their faces.
This is the Aztecs reality however and for those who have followed the program for a long time not just the past 10 years of success, the sense of disappointment will not last long, the season continues onward.
The program is being presented a great opportunity to show how far they truly have come against an opponent such as IPFW (Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne), a Mid-Major.
Show how far they improved from the team that lost to other Mid-Major programs like San Diego, Grand Canyon, and Little Rock which losses kept them out of the NCAA tournament. And it will show the caliber of program SDSU has at the present moment; are they on a decline or only experiencing a bump in their continued rise?
When reached for comment San Diego State coaches and players expressed their obvious disappointment but also let it be known that they are in the NIT to win it.
"Now our goal is to win the NIT," said coach Steve Fisher.
Winston Shepard, Senior forward, added "I never been to New York before, and I am looking forward to trying to go."
The NIT semifinals and finals location is held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. But before that a long road awaits San Diego State that starts on Tuesday 7 PM PST at Viejas Arena against IPFW.
IPFW (24-9, 12-4) plays out of the Summit League, placing second in the conference standings. They lost their most recent contest against North Dakota State in the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament.
This team has a high potent offense ranking 26th in the NCAA averaging 80.2 points per game. Their defense appears to be their Achilles heel though placing at 273 out of 346, allowing opponents an average of 75.9 points per game. They are the reverse of SDSU who are the 4th (60.3 ppg) scoring defense, and 277th (68.1 ppg) scoring offense.
IPFW attack is led by Senior guard Max Landis who averages 18.9 points per game. He is an efficient shooter with identical field goal percentages, 45%, from inside and outside the 3 point line. And has a 44 and 37 point game to his name this year.
Sharing one common opponent with SDSU this year, Utah, IPFW played close with the Utes during the first half only trailing by 3 points, 39-36. The second half was a completely different story as Utah blew them out 57-43; 96-79 final total. San Diego State lost 81-76 to the Utes.
On paper this looks like a great matchup a powerful offense vs a shutdown defense. Conventional wisdom says defense wins these types of games, defense supposedly wins championships after all but Aztecs fans know better than that case in point the Mountain West Tournament results.
Still IPFW whenever they stepped up in competition against teams like Utah and Indiana they got crushed. And SDSU while not Utah or Indiana this year, they definitely are talent wise in another level than IPFW.
With the coaching edge Steve Fisher a national championship winning coach versus Jon Coffman who is in his second year of head coaching. And obvious talent edge (roster full of four star guys), along with one of the greatest home court atmospheres in college basketball, it is clear that SDSU should come out victorious in this game by a wide margin, I predict 81-55.
Again this game is played Tuesday at 7 PM PST at Viejas Arena and streamed online on ESPN3.