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The Morning Dish – Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26, 2016 The Morning Dish No Comments

Steve Fisher isn’t stopping at San Diego State. He’s past the normal retirement age, he’s built them into the signature program in the Mountain West, and he continues to do the job there. In this case, doing the job means winning, and on Sunday night, the Aztecs won to take home the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.

When Fisher took over, the program had been through a number of losing seasons. In his first season at the helm, 1999-2000, the Aztecs went 5-23. Since then, they have had just two losing seasons and have been a consistent NCAA Tournament participant. It helps that they got a big facilities upgrade with Viejas Arena, where they have been consistently tough to beat.

As the Mountain West Conference got better over the past decade, San Diego State led the way. When the conference was peaking, at times comparing quite favorably to even the Pac-10/Pac-12, the Aztecs were the biggest part of that. After an NIT semifinal run in 2009, they made the next six NCAA Tournaments, winning a game in all but two of those appearances. They reached the NIT semifinals again last season, a down year to be sure, but hardly a bad one.

Sunday’s win over San Francisco brings the Aztecs to 8-4 on the season. This team won’t make anyone forget some of the recent Aztec teams, including the two that won over 30 games. They had a three-game losing streak at the beginning of December, including losses to Loyola (Ill.) and Grand Canyon. While the former isn’t so bad as the Ramblers have had a nice non-conference showing, it’s a game the good Aztec teams in recent memory probably win.

San Diego State is still the favorite in the Mountain West, though perhaps not by as much as before the season. Nevada looks more and more like they can challenge them, so it shouldn’t be a walk in the park. But like in any other conference where one program has emerged as the consistent winner, the road to the Mountain West title will go through San Diego State. Fisher has won there with lots of offense and little offense, but consistently good defense. Either way, he has found a way to win in San Diego.

 

Side Dishes

In other action in Honolulu, Illinois State took third place with a 68-56 win over Tulsa, Utah forced 23 turnovers to take fifth with a 74-66 win over Stephen F. Austin, and host Hawaii beat Southern Miss 60-46 to take seventh.

 

Tonight’s Menu

There is one game on tap in Division I, as Morgan State travels across the country to Loyola Marymount for an 8 p.m. Eastern tip.

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College Basketball Tonight

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