Earning a 10-0 start for the first time in the program's 90-year history, Steve Fisher's No. 10-ranked San Diego State Aztecs are beginning to enter the national conversation as one of this season's college basketball teams to watch.
Fans likely best remember Fisher as the architect of the "Fab Five" teams at Michigan during the early 1990s, which included former NBA stars Chris Webber and Jalen Rose, current Miami Heat forward Juwan Howard and Texas high school stars Ray Jackson and Jimmy King.
The pace at Michigan was always frantic, and Fisher has brought a very similar, fast-paced and high-scoring style along with him to San Diego. So far in the 2010-2011 season, it is working like a charm, with the Aztecs outscoring their opponents by an average of 18.3 points per game.
Fisher's squad is riding high on the scoring punch of star sophomore forward Kawhi Leonard, who is currently averaging 16.6 points per game and 9.9 boards per game and should compete for Player of the Year honors in the Mountain West conference.
Senior guard D.J. Gay and senior forward Billy White are also adding some scoring punch, averaging 11.8 and 11.6 points per game respectively during the team's first 10 contests. The senior leadership that this team enjoys should help them work through a relatively easy Mountain West schedule and on into the NCAA tournament come March 2011, with one exception.
Will San Diego State Be This Year's Cinderella?
San Diego State's stiffest competition in the Mountain West will likely come from Steve Alford's New Mexico Lobos, who are 9-1 to start the early season, with their single loss coming to the California Bears in Berkeley, a team the Aztecs easily handled. The game between these two teams on the afternoon of January 15th in Albuquerque will be one of the top tilts on the Mountain West schedule this season.
The BYU Cougars, led by unanimous preseason All-American Jimmer Fredette, will also give the Aztecs all they can handle when the two teams lock up in late January. BYU is currently undefeated and has easily handled top-flight opponents like Arizona.
Does San Diego State have what it takes to control its Mountain West schedule and make a deep run into the tournament next spring, or has it been the beneficiary of an easy early-season schedule and is due to fade away?
Either way, this West Coast upstart is a team that could make some noise in the Big Dance.