The Daily Aztec

The enticing lure of March Madness

From+left+to+right%3A+Peter+Trojnacki%2C+Terry+Shippen
From left to right: Peter Trojnacki, Terry Shippen

From left to right: Peter Trojnacki, Terry Shippen

Ryan Posner

Ryan Posner

From left to right: Peter Trojnacki, Terry Shippen

by Ryan Posner, Sports editor

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Conference tournament season is truly a special time in college basketball. It’s a chance for teams who may not have played up to par a chance to play in the NCAA tournament, and it’s also the time where teams sitting on the bubble can relieve their stress by punching their ticket with an automatic bid.

That kind of excitement has kept San Diego State fans Terry Shippen and Peter Trojnacki coming to the Mountain West Tournament in Las Vegas for the last six years.

The two got a glimpse of the kind of magic the conference tournament holds in 2011 when the Aztecs beat BYU, 72-54, to win the championship.

BYU had beaten the Aztecs the previous two meetings that season. For Shippen, who graduated from SDSU in 1971, that win has been his favorite memory in all his years coming to the tournament.

“There were BYU fans everywhere and they all tucked their tales and scurried out after the game,” he said. While the duo makes the trip to support the Aztecs, they admit they also spare a little time to play some golf and do some gambling. “We’re thinking of trying to make the trip three or four times annually,” Shippen said jokingly.

The big question for the Aztecs heading into the tournament is if they need to win it to make it to the NCAA tournament.

For most teams, that’s the only way to punch its ticket to the Big Dance. But the Aztecs, who’ve made the NCAA Tournament the last six seasons, haven’t won the MW Tournament since that win against BYU in 2011.

That season, the team made its first run in program history to the Sweet 16. “I think they have to make it to at least the final (of the MW Tournament),” Tojnacki said. “If they keep winning convincingly like they have been, then they should get (into the NCAA tournament).”

Tojnacki said the biggest obstacle keeping the team from winning the MW Tournament will be, naturally, No. 2 seed Fresno State.

The Bulldogs served the Aztecs one of their two MW losses on Feb. 10 in Fresno. “They’ve had our number the last two years,” said Tojnacki, referring to the Aztecs’ 2-2 record against the Bulldogs over the last two seasons.

Both men expect to be back next year and for many years after that. However, Tojnacki has one change he’d like to see happen for the MW Tourney. “I think they should change the venue,” he said. “UNLV has the advantage.”

Whether or not the MW will ever take its annual tournament out of Sin City remains to be seen, but it’s a guarantee that there’s always a chance to see something special in the opening weeks of March Madness.

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