San Diego St.-TCU Preview
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- A tie for the Mountain West title was only good enough for San Diego State to gain the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament last season. This time, a tie will earn it the No. 1 seed.
The No. 21 Aztecs can clinch at least a share of the Mountain West crown Saturday night if they end TCU's eight-game home win streak.
San Diego State (23-6, 9-4) lost its top four scorers from last season's club that went 34-3, but continues to be among the nation's biggest surprises. The Aztecs are tied with New Mexico for the conference lead after their third straight win, 66-53 at Boise State on Wednesday.
"I have said all along this is as enjoyable a group I've had the privilege being associated with," coach Steve Fisher said. "They do a great job of playing selfless and that's easy to say and hard to do."
The Aztecs will know by the time they take the court Saturday whether a victory is necessary to earn the top seed since the Lobos host Boise State in the afternoon. A loss by New Mexico also gives San Diego State the No. 1 seed.
San Diego State shot at least 50.0 percent for the first time in six games Wednesday, with Jamaal Franklin finishing with 18 points and 12 boards for his 10th double-double - all in his last 15 games. Franklin leads the conference in scoring at 16.5 points per game.
The previous time the Aztecs made at least half of their shots was their 50.8 percent effort in an 83-73 home win Feb. 4 over TCU (17-12, 7-6). Franklin had 24 points and 11 boards as San Diego State won its seventh straight in the series and 12th in 13 meetings.
The Horned Frogs, enjoying their longest home win streak since a nine-game run Nov. 22, 2008-Jan. 21, 2009, are guaranteed their first winning season since going 21-14 in 2004-05. They are 13-2 at home, winning all six MWC games.
TCU will be trying to close the regular season on a positive note after Tuesday's 71-59 loss at Wyoming. The Horned Frogs fell into a 12-point hole 7:02 into the contest and never recovered.
"We didn't play hard," coach Jim Christian said. "We didn't play as hard as we normally play. We didn't play as together as we normally play, and sometimes you have nights like that. I'm disappointed."
TCU's seven assists matched a season low. The Horned Frogs averaged 15.8 while going 4-1 in their previous five games.
"They (TCU) played without passion and they played without energy," Christian said. "There's no one in the conference we could beat (playing like that)."
The Horned Frogs have plenty at stake as well Saturday since they will earn the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament with a victory and losses by Colorado State and No. 17 UNLV.
TCU has problems on both ends of the floor, though, ranking last in the MWC in both defensive field-goal percentage (47.1) and 3-point defense (37.8).
On offense, top scorer Hank Thorns (13.0 points per game) is averaging 8.5 points on 22.9 percent shooting over his last four games. Thorns is one of four seniors playing his final home game.
Updated March 2, 2012