It seems a bit odd that on Feb. 11 the nets were already being cut down and commissioner Craig Thompson was on hand to deliver the Mountain West championship trophy.
But that’s how good San Diego State has been this season.
The undefeated and fourth-ranked Aztecs clinched the Mountain West regular-season title Tuesday night despite still having more than two weeks left in the regular season. And the Aztecs had quite the party to celebrate.
San Diego State topped New Mexico at home on Tuesday to improve to 14-0 in league play an 25-0 overall. That gave the Aztecs a five-game lead on Boise State, Utah State and Colorado State with just four games to play. So why wait to celebrate?
The Aztecs had the traditional postgame celebration — confetti, fans storming the court, accepting the trophy from the commissioner and climbing a ladder to cut down the nets. One of San Diego State’s main preseason goals was complete.
But the Aztecs still have four games left in the regular season, starting with a Sunday afternoon road game at Boise State. It’s a weird scenario because teams rarely clinch this early. Typically it’s the final game of the regular season, and sometimes maybe with a game or two still left. But locking up first and holding the big celebration with two-plus weeks still left? It doesn’t happen often.
There was no other option for San Diego State. It had to celebrate when it clinched the title — that’s just what you do. But how it impacts the Aztecs moving forward, in particular in their next game Sunday afternoon in Boise, should be fascinating to watch.
Do they come out with the same intensity and focus Sunday after just celebrating a league title a few days earlier? Or do they go through the motions a bit more than usual, especially considering they already beat the Broncos by 18 points about a month ago?
The chance at going undefeated likely will provide enough motivation for San Diego State moving forward, but it figures to lose a game at some point — and Sunday would seem to be as good a time as any.
Boise State plays much better at home, and a sold out crowd likely will provide an even bigger boost. The Broncos also have won six of the last seven games and appear to be playing their best basketball at the right time.
"They are dangerous. They are very good," San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said Thursday. "There's a reason they are 12-1 at home, 7-0 in the conference at home. They are hard to beat in there. It's going to take a very good effort in order to beat them."
San Diego State is just the fourth top-5 team ever to play the Broncos in Boise, and the Aztecs are the highest-ranked team to visit in 20 years. Will they continue towards a perfect regular season with a road win in Boise, or are the Broncos catching them at the perfect time to pull off the monumental upset?
It’s worth getting to ExtraMile Arena on Sunday and finding out for yourself. Tickets remain for just $20 for what should be the best atmosphere for a Boise State home game in at least two years.
On paper San Diego State should win. Everything else seems to give the Broncos a real shot.
Nevada: The Wolf Pack have won three games in a row to move into a tie for second in the Mountain West standings at 9-5. The latest win came Wednesday night in overtime at UNLV to drop the Rebels into sixth. Guard Jalen Harris is a leading candidate for Mountain West Player of the Year with an average of 25.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists during conference games.
Air Force: The Falcons have lost seven straight games to fall into 10th in the league standings. They were 3-3 in the league and had wins over Boise State and Utah State before falling into a four-week tailspin that’s dropped them to 3-10 in the Mountain West.
1. San Diego State (14-0 MW, 25-0 overall) *
2. Boise State (9-5, 17-9)
2. Utah State (9-5, 20-7)
2. Nevada (9-5, 16-10)
5. Colorado State (8-5, 17-9)
6. UNLV (7-6, 12-14)
7. New Mexico (6-7, 17-9)
8. Fresno State (5-9, 9-16)
9. San Jose State (3-10, 7-18)
9. Air Force (3-10, 9-16)
11. Wyoming (1-12, 6-19)
WEEKEND GAMES TO WATCH
UNLV at New Mexico, Saturday, 4 p.m., CBS Sports Network: Both teams are fighting to finish in the top five of the standings and get that all important bye in the first round of the conference tournament. UNLV has lost five of the past six games, while the Lobos have lost six of the past eight. The loser will face an uphill battle to finish in the top five.
San Diego State at Boise State, Sunday, 2 p.m., CBS Sports Network: The Broncos will look to pick up the first top-10 win in program history when the Aztecs come to town. Boise State has won three straight in Boise against San Diego State, but none of those SDSU teams were undefeated and ranked No. 4 in the country.