Blog Entry

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

Posted on: January 17, 2012 2:50 pm

By Jeff Goodman

Kawhi Leonard may be in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs, but he's still making his presence felt with his former teammates at San Diego State. 

"His work ethic, I think we all watched him and learned a lot," Aztecs guard Chase Tapley said. "I know I did. He's so humble, just wants to win and worked so hard and it rubs off on everyone else." 

But work ethic can only do so much. You still need talent -- and after Steve Fisher lost a first-rounder early in Leonard, and three other starters off last season's team, just about everyone figured it would be a rebuilding year. That San Diego State, one of the true feel-good stories a year ago, would return to mediocrity. 

Instead, the Aztecs - coming off a huge win at the Viejas Center this past weekend, are 15-2 and sit among the Top 20 teams in the country heading into Wednesday's tilt at the Pit in New Mexico. 

Fisher has done a remarkable job with this group, one that should put him right there for National Coach of the Year honors. 

"I think we all thought it was a rebuilding year," Tapley admitted. 

Tapley, the lone returning starter, has been phenomenal this season. He's averaging 16.9 points while shooting 52 percent from the field and 49 percent from long range. This coming from a guy who was a role player last season, one who averaged 8.6 points per game and played in the shadow of Leonard, Malcolm Thomas, D.J. Gay and Billy White. 

Sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin is a terrific talent who had to wait his turn and is quickly taking advantage. James Rahon is a threat from the perimeter and two transfers -- Xavier Thames and Garrett Green -- have both been solid. 

The wins haven't been eye-opening until the one against UNLV. There was a road victory in Tucson, which is never an easy task, and another Pac-12 win against Cal. The Aztecs also took down the top two teams in the Big West: Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara. 

However, beating the Runnin' Rebels gave this team credibility. 

"We knew that UNLV beat North Carolina," Tapley said. "And everyone knows how talented Carolina is. We knew that UNLV was going to be a huge test for us, and that we couldn't blow this opportunity." 

But now comes another. 


Since: Sep 10, 2007
Posted on: January 18, 2012 3:59 pm

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

Personally I think Murray State is a decent school. I even think they will be undefeated come tournament invites time and get a 4 or 5 seed.  This has more to do with the caliber of opponents they will face down the stretch, as opposed to the quality of the team itself.  Murray State has not faced anybody in the current AP/Coaches poll Top 25, and their best wins are against Dayton, Memphis, and Southern Miss. After that, it is a huge drop in team quality that they have and will face. This is because the OVC is a doormat conference this year where only a couple of teams besides Murray State went into conference play with a better then 0.500 record.  There are 31 conferences in college basketball and the Ohio Valley conference is rated 21 in RPI, and that is with Murray State in the conference. If you took Murray State out, they would be in the bottom 5.
San Diego State plays in a top 5 or 6 rated conference.

San Diego State has played three teams in the current  Top 25 (1-2), and if SDSU loses to New Mexico, then it will be most likely four. I would also not be surprised to see the Cal Berkely bears finish in the Top 25 as well.
The reason why San Diego State is a surprise is they lost 3 senior starters and Kawhi Leonard (first round draft pick) and only Rahon comes back. He was a part time starter at that. Tim Shelton was not a full time starter either.  When you lose that much talent you are expected to finish at the bottom of the division.  You are not expected to go into preseason final four favorite Baylor and play them close after playing 3 other games in 5 days.
They also had a 17 point lead on Creighton until their power forward and defensive presence Tim Shelton got sidelined with back cramps.  This is not to take away from Creighton, they played awesome and I think will be sweet 16 team.
Not to mention SDSU has only 9 players on their roster and two of those players rarely touch the floor. They have no true center and frequently play with 4 guards on the floor. If the Aztecs were at 9-8 right now people would be impressed. Instead they are number 12, with a 15-2 record.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: January 18, 2012 3:12 pm

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

Fisher was grossly overwhelmed by the politics of running a big program like Michigan, but he was always good with the X's and O's.  With the parity that now exists in college ball, and the amount of talent that is just below the radar of the "big boys," it leaves plenty of room for schools like SDSU and coaches like Fisher to put together nice seasons.  

Fisher's main claim to fame, though, is that he had as many NCAA Championships after six games as numerous coaches, such as Tom Izzo, Rick Pitino, John Thompson, Tubby Smith, Lute Olson, Jim Boeheim, Jerry Tarkanian, and Bill Self have in their entire careers. Also, Fisher won more NCAA Championships after his first six games than John Calipari, among others, in his career.  
Fisher's "ostrich approach" to cheating might have dumped Michigan into a 12-year pit that they are finally escaping, but he is still a very good game coach.   

Since: May 7, 2009
Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:26 pm

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

Im sorry but how bout Murray State being a bigger surprise. I mean NO ONE, I REPEAT NO ONE, of the so called Experts on all sports fronts had them winning the OVC but yet now they are 12 in some polls and 10 in others. I'm sorry but SDSU is not the bigger story. Murray has a first time head coach and a starter injured for the past few games and they are still rolling through the OVC and their oppenets.

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: January 18, 2012 1:14 pm

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

Dang, here I thought this was going to be about South Dakota State.


Since: Jan 17, 2008
Posted on: January 18, 2012 11:30 am

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

Beating a Long Beach team (that beat Xavier and Pitt) in Long Beach  was also a decent win. 

The Long Beach State game was in San Diego. Nice try, though.

Since: Aug 1, 2007
Posted on: January 18, 2012 9:12 am

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

FYI ...I am not calling them a  bad team, far from it. Simply stating this is in absoluetly no way any sort of surprise in the least.

Since: Aug 1, 2007
Posted on: January 18, 2012 9:08 am

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

Biggest surprise? How can you claim a team that made the sweet 16 last year, Six 20 win seasons in a row and now another somewhat easy schedule (losses to Baylor and Creighton and VERY close wins over Cal, UNLV and Arizona) not exactly awe inspiring is it? To call THIS team a big surprise is more than a stretch. Murray Staes perfect record, Syracuse's perfect record, how about Baylor? All three are bigger surprises than what is frankly expected at this stage from SDSU. Can you say "sensational journalism"?

Since: Mar 1, 2009
Posted on: January 18, 2012 8:02 am

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

This Aztec team is very good with J. Franklin playing like he is.  I thought last year both Rahon and Tapley were some of the most poised shooters in the conference and seem to be even better this year...which is logical.  Tonight's game at the Pit versus New Mexico should be a good one with two quality Mountain West teams vying for national attention.  Two teams at 15-2 at one of college basketball's premiere sites is a game worth watching.  Too bad the MST makes the game at 10 pm on the right coast.  Too few from that area have much, if any idea about basketball west of Texas.

Since: Jun 6, 2009
Posted on: January 17, 2012 10:28 pm

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

San Diego has one win and 2 losses versus "quality" opponents .  1/3 of their wins are against teams that have a .088 winning % against Div ! teams

EZ, I see that you only want to quote the bottom 5 teams of SDSU's opponents but fail to mention the fact that the rest of their D1 opponents that they have beaten have a combined winning % of 71 for D1 games.

Also, not sure where you are getting this "quality" opponents of only 3. Clearly you have a mind set of power 6 only bias. SDSU has a total of 6 "Quality opponents with 4 of them wins. You cant discount Cal, AZ, LBSU or UNLV who are all projected to be in the dance. Just because they dont show up on the top 25 doesnt mean they are not quality opponents.

CAL    23 (Sagarin)   16  (KenPom)

AZ     64 (Sagarin)    54  (KenPom)

LBSU  52 (Sagarin)   57   (KenPom)

UNLV  11 (Sagarin)   19   (KenPom) 

All projected to make the dance and even UCSB is projected. Just like any other team vs quality opponents SDSU is right there with the rest. Not to mention they do this all with 7 players not 10 or 12 "SEVEN".

Since: Dec 7, 2011
Posted on: January 17, 2012 9:52 pm

No bigger surprise than Steve Fisher's Aztecs

i hope steve fisher has a real good year. he deserves it. it was a crime the way michigan treated him. the ad had to show who was boss. 

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