Photo courtesy of the Associated Press
College basketball is normally reserved for the Duke's, the North Carolina's, the Syracuse's, and...you get the picture.
However, in 2011, the college basketball landscape has taken on a very different feel than in year's past. There is one team from Southern California, not named UCLA, that has taken the college basketball world by the throat and refuses to let go.
Sure the Bruins have been known as the team of the decade during the John Wooden tenure and sure Coach K has had some of the best teams in college basketball through his years at Duke. While I'm certainly not going to compare this team to the great teams coached by those great men but you better believe they've woken up fans in this sleepy little town.
Am I going to tell you who I'm referring to? Sure, but you're going to have to wait a little longer.
You see, this sports town has gotten used to mediocrity with their professional teams. While playoff appearances are great it's the best this city has seen in more than a decade. In fact, it's the best they've seen since 1998, 13 years ago.
They've gotten used to their teams having a great regular season and have been in anticipation of great things, only to watch it fall apart like it has so many times before.
This past football season, they came oh so close to knocking off Missouri who was ranked in the top 10 at the time. They had the lead with less than two minutes to go but a bad defensive effort led to a last second touchdown and a loss that never should have been.
Have you figured it out yet? No? Then keep reading because it only gets more fun from here.
This school has never been known as the upper echelon of athletics, especially in basketball. They've made it to the NCAA Tournament and won their conference championship, but still were never in the national conversation.
This season, they're in the top five and all the buzz surrounds this team. In fact, maybe this team should be considered the best college basketball team in the nation?
At this point, you should have figured out who I'm referring to. It's none other than the fourth ranked, unbeaten, San Diego State Aztecs.
On Wednesday night, they will be in Provo, Utah in front of a sold out crowd to take on ninth ranked BYU (19-1) for a conference showdown not to be missed. These two teams have 39 wins between them so far this season. This is a game that will have every fan of both teams on the edge of their seats all night long.
Despite their unblemished record to this point, the college basketball "experts" still have San Diego State behind one-loss Duke, two-loss Pitt, and unbeaten Ohio State.
I'm not one to call out anyone that votes in the top 25 polls, but they have it wrong. Simple as that. The Aztecs are behind two teams with a combined three wins. The only reason they still sit at fourth is for no other reason than their name and their conference.
Shame on them.
That has created a chip on the shoulders of the San Diego State players and, with every win, the college basketball pundits have to sit up and take notice just a little bit more than they did the game before. They're wondering how much longer they can ignore the team from San Diego.
The way things are going for this team, they won't be able to do that much longer. A win over BYU tonight, especially on the road, would send a message loud and clear that they are here to stay and they are ready for whoever wants a shot at them.
We can sit here and talk about mid-majors all we want but the same thing was said about TCU before they headed to Pasadena and showed the Big Ten they weren't too big for the top dog in the Mountain West.
San Diego State wants to be noticed, they want the college basketball world to recognize that they aren't just going to play a conference schedule most call "weak" and then crumble when the post season rolls around.
Make no mistake about it, Ohio State has looked at the rankings and they know exactly what San Diego State is doing. They may not give it a second look but that first one was enough for them know there's someone in their rear view mirror.
Anticipation surrounding this team and this city is at an all time high and it began when the Aztecs were ranked in the preseason top 25 for the first time in school history.
Keep an eye on the Aztecs because you never know what they might do next. Brush them off, just once, and that chip on their shoulder will get that much bigger.
A win on Wednesday night will go a long way to proving just what this team can do. A win will put them in the conversation for the best college basketball team in the country.