San Diego State Looks to Salvage Mountain West Reputation

By John Engel
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Mountain West Conference turned heads in the 2012-13 season and seemed to be emerging as a power conference in college basketball by sending four teams to the NCAA tournament. Then, without any notice, three of the five Mountain West participants lost their first game.

It’s remarkable that the Mountain West was able to send five teams — New Mexico, UNLV, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State — not to mention a No. 4 and No. 5 seed. However, New Mexico, being the Mountain West’s most prized contender, was bounced in the second round by No. 14 seed Harvard in what will be considered one of the most monumental upsets in this year’s tournament.

Boise State was abused in the first round of play-in games by La SalleCalifornia bounced No. 5 seed UNLV, and Colorado St. moved on to the next round to face Louisville in what will be an inevitable blood bath.

San Diego St., on the other hand, has one of the easiest roads to the Sweet 16 imaginable.

After winning handily against Oklahoma in their opening game of the second round, the Aztecs will face No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast with a chance to move on to the Sweet 16. Florida Gulf Coast upset No. 2 seed Georgetown, in what was a shocking, but probable result when facing the most underperforming program in NCAA tournament history.

From what I saw in the Georgetown collapse, the Hoyas didn’t get beat by Florida Gulf Coast — they beat themselves.

Georgetown shot 25 percent from behind the arc, and only 37 percent overall. The Eagles didn’t look like a team that could defeat anyone in the Big East Conference, let alone the tournament winner. It’s pretty simple why Georgetown lost in the second round: their star player and Big East Player of the Year (Otto Porter Jr.) shrunk in the spotlight.

San Diego St. is lead by a guard who looks into the spotlight, and grins.

Jamaal Franklin leads the Aztecs into their matchup with Florida GC following a 21-point, eight-assist, and five-rebound night against Oklahoma. This stat line would be impressive for any other player in this tournament, but Franklin has made it part of his daily routine. Franklin averaged 16.7 points, eight rebounds and five assists during the regular season for San Diego St.

Not only should San Diego State be a heavy favorite over Florida Gulf Coast, but the win should all ready be penciled into the record books. The combination of Franklin and a sub-par Eagles team will save the Mountain West from complete embarrassment this season.

John Engel is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. John works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in addition to Rant Sports. Follow: @engelsportsguy.

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