If there's any lingering doubt whether San Diego State belongs in the NCAA tournament, New Mexico coach Steve Alford tried to clear it up.
"We've lost four games, two of them have been to San Diego State," Alford told reporters on Friday night. "So there's no doubt in my mind that they're one of the teams that should be in."
A thrilling 72-69 victory over Alford's top-seeded Lobos propelled the Aztecs into the Mountain West title game against host UNLV and strengthened their case for an NCAA tournament bid. San Diego State (24-8, 11-5) now owns two wins over New Mexico, one against UNLV and a No. 32 RPI, the highlights of a resume otherwise light on marquee victories.
Because San Diego State didn't do much of significance in the non-conference portion of the its schedule, the case for the Aztecs basically comes down to whether you believe the Mountain West is legit this year. Four top 50 RPI teams seem to indicate the conference is much improved this season, but only UNLV has won an NCAA tournament game the past four years.
It would be hard to argue that San Diego State didn't look like an NCAA tournament team on Friday. Las Vegas native Billy White scored 28 points and Kawhi Leonard added 15 points and 12 rebounds, helping the Aztecs survive a disputed put-back by New Mexico's A.J. Hardeman that gave the Lobos their last lead with 2:40 remaining but appeared to come after the shot clock expired.
Although the consensus appears to be that San Diego State will hear its name called on Selection Sunday, forgive the Aztecs if they don't take any chances. Many thought they would make the field last year, but upsets in several conference tournament finals and the surprise inclusion of Arizona in the field cost them a bid.
This year, San Diego State can leave no doubt with a win over UNLV on Saturday night.
"Our goal is to cut down the nets," San Diego State coach Steve Fisher told reporters after the game. "But we've added to the résumé with this win, no question about it."