BYU-San Diego State Rivalry Rekindled on Maui
By Rodney S. Yap
Thanks to the EA Sports Maui Invitational Tournament, BYU and No. 16 ranked San Diego State will get a chance to rekindle their storied Mountain West basketball rivalry — if only for one night at the Lahaina Civic Center.
The BYU-San Diego State 6:30 p.m. matchup, to be televised on ESPN2, is the featured game on the first day of the 2014 tournament. Monday’s earlier games feature Purdue-Kansas State (9:30 a.m.), Missouri-Arizona (noon) and Pittsburgh-Chaminade (4 p.m.).
“We look for good story lines in first-round match-ups,” said tournament chairman Dave Odom. “When you look at BYU and San Diego State, they were fierce rivals for a long time. Now we’re giving them a chance, if only for a night, to renew it.”
At the annual Sunday Morning Coaches Press Conference, all eight participating head coaches shared thoughts on their respective teams heading into today’s opening-round action. The press conference was moderated by ESPN play-by-play analyst Jon Sciambi, and held at the Sheraton Maui Resort and Spa’s Ocean Lawn.
Both BYU (3-0) and San Diego State (3-0) are unbeaten.
The Aztecs and the Cougars have played 71 times in men’s basketball, all but three between 1979 and 2011 when both belonged to the Western Athletic and Mountain West conferences. Then BYU decided to go independent in football so it wouldn’t have to share television and bowl revenue with an entire league, and the Mountain West sent the Cougars packing, too.
“This tournament means a lot,” BYU senior guard Tyler Haws said. “You grow up watching this tournament. We’re happy to be a part of it, but we want to win games, too. We know the challenge ahead of us. I think we can compete with anyone.”
In 2011, ninth-ranked BYU topped No. 4 San Diego State 71-58 before a sellout crowd at the Marriott Center, the biggest game in Mountain West Conference history.
“I thank the tournament for allowing us to participate in it, and then helping us with our program and being able to establish more credibility and consistency with our group,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose.
BYU has played twice previously in the tournament, upsetting Oklahoma and Memphis (with Penny Hardaway) before losing to Duke in 1992 and going 1-2 in 2004.
San Diego State announced Wednesday that Steve Fisher signed a three-year contract extension that runs through the 2017-18 season. Since joining the program before the 1999-2000 season, Fisher has gone 314-176 and led the Aztecs to seven NCAA tournament appearances, including two trips to the regional semifinals.
“Obviously all of us want to take the next step. And we’d like to take the next big step and get to the Final Four,” he said. “If you look at our roster, you look at our recruits coming in for next year and you look at the horizon of who we can recruit as we move forward, and I would say, why not us? Why not us being that school that does that?”
The Aztecs are coming off a Sweet 16 season and a MWC title. They are one of the best defensive teams in the country, but their offense has struggled to score points. leaves a lot to be desired. This a is a veteran-laden squad, as their 5 top scorers are all either juniors or seniors.
The Cougars boast one of the most explosive offenses in college basketball, averaging more than 95 points per game. Haws and Chase Fischer both average more than 15 points per game.
“This is the tournament we all pine to be a part of for a whole host of reasons, starting with the competition, but with the ambience, and where you are, and the hospitality, the professionalism that it’s run with. All eyeballs in America will be on this tournament,” said Fisher. “We know that, you know that, our players know that, and they’re very excited to be here. It’s a great, great field, and I said this to our local media and I’ll say it again. I think this tournament will produce multiple NCAA Tournament participants, and it has a chance to produce some folks to not only get in, but make deep advances.”
Silverswords to Face Pittsburgh in MIT Opener
The Chaminade University men’s basketball team opens the 2014 EA Sports Maui Invitational against Pittsburgh today, Nov. 24, at 4 p.m.
The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU and will be the first meeting between the schools.
“I’m excited about the opportunity to play Pitt,” Silverswords head coach Eric Bovaird said. “Being from western Pennsylvania, I grew up as a Pitt fan. (Head Coach Jamie) Dixon is a friend of mine and a really good coach.
“They’ll be an awfully tough challenge for us, but a great chance to see where we are at coming off a championship season.”
The Panthers ended 2013-14 with a 26-10 record and a fifth-place finish during their inaugural season in the ACC, advancing to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament.
Pittsburgh has several Hawai’i ties, including Dixon, who spent two different stints as an assistant at the University of Hawai’i Manoa in the 1990s. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Joshua Ko is from Kailua and guided Kalaheo High School to back-to-back Hawai’i High School Athletic Association championships.
The ‘Swords return 12 players from last year’s team which captured their first-ever Pacific West Conference Tournament championship while earning back-to-back NCAA Division II West Regional appearances for the first time in school history.