Men’s basketball energizes campus

Photo by Jenna Mackey, Senior Staff Photographer.

Photo by Jenna Mackey, Senior Staff Photographer.

by Logan Burns

Since the spring semester began, there has been a constant and energetic buzz around campus about the men’s basketball team.

This season was supposed to be a rebuilding one for the Aztecs. The loss of Jamaal Franklin to the NBA was supposed to be catastrophic for our offense, and this year was supposed to be the bridge between grooming our younger players and welcoming next year’s highly hyped freshman class. However, the Aztecs had different plans and have already put them into motion.

As Aztec fans we should be excited to experience what is going on in Viejas Arena and across the country, because this could be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, though hopefully not.

After key wins against then No. 20/18 Creighton University and No. 25 Marquette University in the DIRECTV Wooden Legacy and perhaps the biggest regular season win in recent Aztec history against then No. 16/17 Kansas, the Aztecs have taken care of business en route to their 21-1 record.

With only seven games left in the season, the buzz around Aztec Nation is, “Can they hold on?” or “Will they win out and finish the season in the top 5?”

Most Aztec fans, including myself, know that anything can happen in conference play, as was exhibited last Wednesday in Boise, Idaho. This game was thought to be a trap game for the Aztecs because of the Broncos’ strong program.

Our Cinderella run seemed to be at the end, but junior forward Dwayne Polee II had other ideas when he made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left in the game. Some would call the win against Boise an escape and an exhalation of breath. However, I believe it was good for our team to pull out a close win.

Championships are won in March and the Aztecs are bound to have a few more close calls in the coming weeks.

Head coach Steve Fisher has done an amazing job molding his players to fit his system, while senior guard Xavier Thames has taken over the captain’s role that Franklin left behind.

Thames is leading the team in points per game with 18.1 and is the undisputed go-to guy for the Aztecs when the game is on the line.

Senior forward Josh Davis has emerged as a premier rebounder in the country, averaging a team-leading 11.0 per game.

Players such as redshirt freshman forward Matt Shrigley and junior forward J.J. O’Brien have contributed immensely from the 3-point line and on the boards, respectively.

The success the Aztecs have had so far this season is possibly the most impressive in the program’s history, considering the expectations at the beginning of the year.

However, one question still lingers: “What if we had beaten Arizona?” It’s easy to get used to winning and taking our recent success for granted, but one can only imagine what it would be like if we were undefeated and possibly the No. 1 ranked team in the country.

We gave the Wildcats one of the better games they have had this season, which is a great reason to believe that the Aztecs can make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Aztec fans and students should be overwhelmingly excited. Not only about their recent run, but because of what they have accomplished with such little expectations. As students, I hope you keep getting in line for tickets early on Monday mornings to keep “The Show,” the best student section in the country, as it has been all year. This could be a monumental year for our men’s basketball team and I hope all of you take advantage of the phenomenal play going on at Viejas Arena.

Photo by Jenna Mackey, Senior Staff Photographer