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March 26, 2023

SDSU Aztecs Make Mountain West History Following Devastating 2020 March Sadness.

“What It Do, Baby.” ~ Kawhi Leonard, SDSU Aztec & NBA Player 

 

It’s turning out that the biggest storm to sweep the nation this relentless 2023 storm season is coming in from the west, San Diego in particular. Huge red swells.

Today, in the Sweet 16 round of NCAA March Madness, SDSU shredded brackets everywhere in a must-watch, nail-biting game beating top-seed Alabama on account of two things:

1. Aztec defense was more than aggressive; it was lightning fast and reflexively stacked with stealth and skill. 

2. All those sexy three-pointers they swished! The school that was the more accurate shooter won, and that was the Aztecs. 

Not only has SDSU made into the Elite 8 for the first time in school history, no Mountain West Conference school has ever made it this far either. Now SDSU has to win only three games to become the National Champion, and this team that plays tougher than college-level may very well be the team to do it. And there’s going to be some serious partying on the West Coast this weekend and this month.

But it’s been an emotional journey for Aztec fans. Imagine putting together a dream team with global talent spanning from Oakland to New Zealand with such magnanimous kinship and brotherhood on the court and you’re in NCAA tournament season with a record of 30-2. Now imagine your team, complete with a couple future draft picks, is the team that’s poised and ready to dance stealthily into March Madness—except, it’s March of 2020.

When the 2020 NCAA tournament was canceled, COVID-19 hit different if you’re an Aztec. We called it March Sadness because it was a really special and talented team. Before the world shut down, I really loved watching this team in action. I had to sit away from the noisy bar at my own small table, with my own TV above me; I marveled at how good they were. They never missed their three pointers and the way they moved as one, quick to help each other, is what encapsulates good sports.

So imagine the emotion this season when No. 5 seed, SDSU, with its teamwork-focused approach made it into the Sweet Sixteen, for the third time in team history and is now currently 3-0 in the Sweet Sixteen. Every SDSU basketball team is different each year, but the Aztec spirit remains steady and strong. This year’s team may have all the right factors in place to go all the way—a perfect storm. For one, they’re physically strong and look more like NBA players than college boys. Most importantly, in press conference interviews, their focus is so strongly on team unity that they don’t worry about who’s taking the shots when Micah Parrish said, “We just try to find an open guy, each game may not be your game but I guess today was mine.”

It’s an “It Just Happened To Be Me” humble attitude. Those physical and emotional attributes combined with extremely strong defense and passionate fans make Aztecs a nearly undefeated team that may not be able to be held back for much longer—not by a pandemic or Biden’s Air Force One, which delayed the Aztecs’ charter to Florida putting them behind schedule. Yet, they still won. Perhaps President Biden can invite them to the White House if they bring home the National Championship, considering the setbacks the Aztecs have endured to make history.

They’re strong, grateful, united, and resilient to setbacks. Any school playing SDSU in the coming weeks should be worried, even the top-seed schools. It took a global pandemic to stop San Diego from showing the entire country what the Aztecs are capable of. As an Alum, I already know SDSU is a champion because when I’m speaking, people stop me mid-sentence and ask me where I went to college. Is there any greater compliment than that? That beats frames on the wall. I think they expect to hear a UC or maybe Ivy League name come out of my mouth, but they don’t know that before “wokeness” was a thing, decades before, we just thought of it as historical, fact-based education (in my liberal arts program) where we mentored each other, as I myself was mentored by the first man to earn a Master’s Degree in Women’s Studies who is now a TED Speaker. SDSU diversity and education is an example of the direction all educational institutions should be moving in to prevent the dangerous problems of a deeply polarized country. In academics and athletics, SDSU is a shining trendsetter, and my degree has always felt priceless to me (but I’d still like my student loans forgiven, especially since I serve our community a social justice journalist!).

When I hear about how impacted and physically congested Berkeley is these days, I think these people are not exploring their options. Maybe the Aztecs are still the best kept secret in California? After all, how many California college students like me got to participate in a real Take Back the Night rally on campus plus a fake TV Take Back the Night rally because I was making extra money as an extra on Veronica Mars filmed on the SDSU campus, where I had the privilege to watch Kristen Bell up close, becoming Kristen Bell. In between my Women’s Studies and Surfing classes, I developed a love for both women’s and men’s Aztec basketball. We all did. It’s a spirit that unites us everywhere from sports bars to dating apps. Even the Aztec fans that aren’t Aztecs will stop an Aztec to tell us what they like about the Aztecs. There’s something magical about the Aztec vibe.

So many businesses employ Aztecs now; we’re a special flavor of underdog pride you don’t want to underestimate that you want on your team for diversity, cohesiveness, strength, and intelligence that thinks outside the box. Next time you need feedback from your work team, make sure you ask your Aztec Alum to chime in, because the direction the world is moving in, you’re going to want to hear from the school turning out team-oriented draft picks, TED Speakers, CEOs, the first female, Hispanic Astronaut, and Social Justice Activists. At SDSU, we all have different majors but What It Do Baybee is that we all major in the future and that kind of do better spirit is contagious. Go Aztecs! Let’s dance!

A special shout-out to Coach Dutcher for coaching some really great SDSU basketball teams that this Alum has found so enjoyable to watch. They truly encapsulate the Aztec spirit.

~

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