On Wednesday night in front of a hostile environment at Laramie, San Diego State (21-7, 14-1) pulled off the hat trick and won their third consecutive Mountain West Conference regular season title. A feat that seemed improbable back in the December as the Aztecs entered the conference season with a subpar 7-6 record; a mark filled with NCAA tournament resume crushing defeats to opponents such as cross town rival USD (RPI in the 300 range) that still haunts them to this day.
That is why unlike previous years the Aztecs cut their championship celebration short, because uncertainty lies ahead. In any other year being crowned Mountain West regular season champion, even if shared, let alone outright (what SDSU just accomplished) would be enough to get you an invite to the big dance but not this year. This year San Diego State has to win and win and that still might not be enough, unless they win the conference tournament.
In any case the conference tournament is just around the corner and SDSU is looking to maintain momentum on Saturday versus a tough Boise State (18-10, 9-6) team, that despite being only 3-5 in their last 8 games, is coming off a big 81-69 win over UNLV (16-13, 7-9).
Boise State entered the year as one of the favorites to win the conference, and while they ultimately fell short of their goal, they still remain a very dangerous team for anyone to face. The Aztecs are not one to overlook just how dangerous the Broncos can be, remembering winning their first meeting by only a three-point margin (Boise State missed a last second shot) back in January 16. And expect a similar down to the wire affair at their home court.
"When we play Boise State in what could be, should be, and probably will be just like what we've seen in the past. That will make for interesting coaching, playing and viewing. We're excited," Steve Fisher said during a Friday press conference.
One important player to keep an eye out on the Boise State side is James Webb III, the junior forward and Broncos leading scorer (16.0 PPG) injured his right knee during the UNLV game Tuesday and is questionable to play. With the conference tournament coming in less than 10 days, it is difficult to imagine Boise State taking any risks and playing Webb III.
Luckily for the Broncos, the Aztecs are not at full strength either with one of their best players, true freshman Jeremy Hemsley battling a foot injury the past few games against Wyoming and San Jose State, though none of those two teams are world beaters. This game against Boise State will present the first real test for SDSU with a limited Hemsley on the court.
Taking those factors into consideration at this point of the season, want and need are things that cannot be overstated. San Diego State needs this game a lot more than Boise State does. That is why I see SDSU pulling off the win. 64-58.
This game tips at 3 p.m. PT on CBS Sports Network.