SDSU climbs the rankings, looks for respect

by Antonio Morales

Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor
Antonio Zaragoza, Photo Editor

Every Monday morning the top-25 polls are released. The San Diego State men’s basketball team was a fixture in those polls last season.

Nobody expected the team to be highly ranked this season, but once the polls were released yesterday, SDSU was ranked 13th in the Associated Press Top-25 and 12th in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll.

Let the reality of that soak in for a moment.

It’s been said a thousand times, but this team isn’t supposed to be where it is right now. It lost four starters from last season’s team and was picked to finish third in the Mountain West Conference behind UNLV and New Mexico, and just defeated both in the last 10 days.

The names and faces may have changed, but head coach Steve Fisher and the Aztecs keep producing the same result: wins.

This team truly believes it will win every game and has a great amount of belief in itself.

“The coaching staff gives us a good amount of confidence,” sophomore point guard Xavier Thames said. “My teammates have a lot of confidence in themselves as well.”

The assurance isn’t limited to the stars of the team, either. There was an air of confidence on the bench last week when three subs came into the game and helped SDSU dig itself out of a 10-point deficit.

The competition between members of the team helps promote the atmosphere of belief.

“We’re all our own (biggest) competitors,” junior guard Chase Tapley said. “We all push each other, so we all just give each other confidence to the fullest.”

And why wouldn’t the team have confidence? Its combined record since the beginning of last season is 51-5.

Even though many people didn’t expect the Aztecs to be in the spot they are in, Tapley said it’s no surprise to the team.

“We expected to be in this position,” he said. “We kind of exceeded other people’s expectations, but we’re comfortable with where we’re at now. We just need to keep working hard and focusing on San Diego State.”

Even though SDSU has tallied impressive win after impressive win, it is still looking for more.

Until the win at New Mexico, the team was somewhat slighted by the national media.

After that game, the team finally began to get some recognition.

Tapley and sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin don’t worry about the lack of respect, but know if the team wins, the praise will come.

“We cannot worry about the doubters,” Tapley said. “We have to win and everything will take care of itself. This year our goal was to keep moving up in the rankings and that is what we will keep striving for.”

“I think teams out there are starting to respect us,” Franklin said. “A lot of teams and people out there still do not respect you, but we cannot worry about that. We just have to win because when you win, everything plays a part and is right.”

The Aztecs will look to gain more respect tonight, when they take on the 16-3 Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie, Wyo.

The Cowboys are tied for second place in the MW and sport a 12-1 home record.