Steve Fisher knows it all and that doesn’t come as a surprise.
One doesn’t roam a basketball sideline as long as San Diego State’s coach and not learn a thing or two.
So while the Aztecs get cozy in Las Vegas this week, we wonder: must SDSU win the Mountain West Tournament to reach the NCAA Tournament?
“I have no clue,’’ Fisher said. “I have no idea.’’
If he doesn’t, who the heck does?
San Diego State (23-8) won its conference by three games, an impressive margin regardless of where a team hangs its shingle. But with the MW being P-U, save the Aztecs, it’s a crown that comes with roses and thorns.
It figures that this year the MW will send but one school to the Big Dance. With most of its squads waltzing with two left feet that could leave the Aztecs left out, if not running the table in Las Vegas.
Sure they had a sweet non-conference win over California. But those stinkers to the University of San Diego and Grand Canyon present a schism that requires a leap of faith to think SDSU will gain an at-large berth.
By storming through the MW, the Aztecs gained a first-round bye. They hit the floor on Thursday, facing the winner of the Utah State-Wyoming game. Win there, and twice more, and the question posed to Fisher becomes moot.
“Our goal is to go in and win the tournament and we aren’t the lone ranger in wanting to do that,’’ Del Mar’s Fisher said. “We will go in prepared. We are playing good basketball right now. Our goal is to continue doing so and if we do we will have a great chance to be successful.’’
The Aztecs, coming off decisive wins over New Mexico and UNLV, are humming. That would have Fisher leaning on a saying from his coaching idol, the late John Wooden: “Perform at your best when your best is required.”
To go where Wooden was regularly — the NCAA Tournament — the Aztecs are peaking at the perfect time.
“Everything is starting to come together,’’ guard Trey Kell said. “Everyone is starting to know their roles. Everyone is starting to have that confidence. Everyone is starting to shoot the ball really well. We are letting our defense fuel our offense. I think it’s just a mixture of those things. Everyone is feeling good and we are playing well right now.”
SDSU seldom scuffles with defense and rebounding. It’s getting points where the mojo on the Mesa is often derailed. Recently, that hasn’t been a problem. So if the Aztecs stay in front of those with the ball, clean the glass and move the scoreboard under their name, that about covers it.
“Lately the last two games (the shots) have gone in with great regularity and that is why there has been a big difference with the scores,’’ Fisher said. “Our defense has been solid all year and I have no doubt that it will remain that way. We are cautiously optimistic that our offense will stay the way it has been the last two games.”
What goes on in Vegas hopefully doesn’t stay there. If the Aztecs claim their first MW Tournament title since 2011, those scissors to cut the nets will shred many a projected NCAA Tournament bracket as well.
“We haven’t played well enough, it is probably that simple,’’ Fisher said of SDSU stumbling near The Strip. “We thought we were the best team last year and got beat by Wyoming in the finals. We got beat the year before by New Mexico, who was really good. When we’ve won it in the past we had close games.’’
Fisher embraces winning it and heading straight for the NCAA Tournament. That much he knows.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports