Welcome aboard. Please keep your hands and head inside for the full duration of the ride or you are likely to lose your mind. You don’t have to be a certain height or age to ride. In fact, the more of you that want to jump on, the better. We are happy to have you join the festivities, because we celebrating our own version of the “happiest place on Earth,” Aztecland.
The Aztec fan base is fully activated, as the current run by the Basketball team to the Sweet 16 has erased years of doubt and frustration from alumni, who moved to the sidelines, and it has created new legions of followers throughout Southern California. The best parts about the Aztec basketball team are that there is plenty of room for everyone to jump on the ride now, and for everyone to know that the best is yet to come, because the team has not played a complete game in the NCAA tournament yet.
However, there has been a lot of chatter about how the Aztecs have won ugly, that they have been lucky, they still haven’t played anybody, and that they don’t belong. From a national perspective, there are many still not giving the team a chance to advance out of the West region to the Final Four. Therefore, the Aztecs need everyone on board to help get through Connecticut on Thursday and then the winner of Duke/Arizona on Saturday.
Keep these five things in mind when cheering them on:
1) Winning ugly is better than losing pretty, especially when it is the NCAA Tournament. The Aztecs style of play all season has pretty much been to play to the level of the competition, and then go on a run that separates them. Despite only losing 2 times this season, there have only been a small handful of games in which the Aztecs dominated from beginning to end and played to their maximum potential. It can be frustrating at times when they go into a shooting slump and somehow stop scoring as a team, but don’t expect it to change. You’ll then be pleasantly surprised when they duplicate what they did to BYU in the MWC final, Utah at home, the two beat downs of Wyoming, vs. UCSB, and against cross-town rival, USD.
2) The Aztecs are a balanced team. They don’t care who gets to score. They share the ball and play as a unit. There are 4 guys who average double figures in points with the highest being less than 16 ppg. Therefore, when a player is having an off game shooting or gets into foul trouble, it is not asking too much for another player to step it up a little more to pick up the slack. There are times when even two players are not “on,” but the team somehow finds a way to get the job done.
3) They win with tough, in-your-face, man-to-man defense. The defense generally triggers their runs and gets them easy fast-break points. Their full-court press can be equally lethal. When they get on one of their runs, you get the highlight reel moments that break the backs of their opponents. The run is always out there waiting to strike, so don’t write them off.
4) Billy White, Malcolm Thomas, and Brian Carlwell are as emotional on the court as Kawhi Leonard, D.J. Gay, Chase Tapley, and James Rahon are even keeled. Make no mistake, however, they are experienced, together as a team, and they don’t get down on each other. There has not been a noticeable moment during the entire season where the players have appeared to turn on each other and argue openly. This has been true, even during the worst slumps and situations.
5) They are not satisfied with the season and they believe that they will win every game. You don’t get to 34-2 without belief and a hunger to succeed. You may not have picked them to go to the Final Four in your bracket, but each one of the players on that team likely did. In fact, it would not be surprising if they all put themselves in the national championship game.
Their expectations and goals are higher than those of most Aztec fans, yet the dream season continues with potential match-ups against the biggest names in NCAA basketball royalty.
Therefore, get in, sit down, hold on, and enjoy the ride. It’s going to be a wild one.
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