Leslie and Renée accompanied me over to Heidi and Kent's yesterday to watch the Aztecs play Creighton. They brought a bunch of food and we were, of course, a few minutes late.
I was squirming but there are times that there is nothing you can do about things like that so I surrendered and mostly shut up.
Truth be told, I was not real confident about the basketball game. We just took down the number one team in the land and I thought there might be an emotional let down.
So I had very low expectations. Whatever happens, I was cool with it but I honestly didn't expect to advance.
Kent made a wonderful smoked and dry rubbed tri tip, he is really good with barbecue, Heidi made a nice salad. Renée hand squeezed blood orange juice and I immediately went for the screwdrivers to settle in.
It is funny, since the Aztecs started their run, the east coast centered national sports media can not give them any credit whatsoever. It is always the other team that failed. No wonder the team has a chip on their shoulder, they get very little respect and this pattern continued yesterday.
We worship blue bloods in this country and people can't quite get their head around the fact that a team from the piddly little Mountain West can come so far. Truth be told, the Mountain West has really upped its game this year:
Six teams with twenty wins or more, four teams in the tournament, the conference is getting a whole lot better, everybody trying to match the Aztecs success. Whether the Aztecs stay with the conference is another matter. If they do go to the Pac 12 (or 10, whatever you call it) at least they won't have to fly to Laramie any more. Their travel schedule is killer.
The other day Dutcher intimated that the reason they have not been previously invited to the Pac 12 was because UCLA and USC did not want to see them on an equal footing for recruiting as they tend to plunder our area. And now they are gone, it makes sense to have a southern Cal team in the conference, doesn't it? Or start a new conference, will be quite interesting to see what comes down the pike.
Anyway back to yesterday. the Aztecs did not play a great game. They won, and fairly, but I don't see how. The Creighton center Kalkenbrenner had a field day with them. He seemed to score at will in the low post and clean up everything. Plays in a different stratosphere. Very hard to guard somebody that big and agile. I would have gone to him every play if I was the opposition.
But Mensah and LeDee (who is a cousin of the late Willis Reed) tightened it up and the Aztecs ultimately prevailed, on the strength of the short to medium range jumpers by Butler and Trammell. We go on to play FAU, my sister's alma mater, in the Final Four.
The oddsmakers had Creighton a two and a half point favorite, even though we were a higher seed. This continues a pattern since the Charleston game, we were not supposed to win a game if you listened to the Myron Medcalfs of this world. People talk about defense but what they really want is flashy scorers like Brandon Miller or the incredible girl from Iowa, Caitlin Clark.
That is why everybody is so gung ho on Connecticut, they like familiar teams that can score. The Aztecs are unusual and enigmatic, a group that is about team work and defense, not individual stars. And they are way out in California, do they play basketball out there?
How quickly they forget that we just beat a better team in Alabama that could even score more. No respect. I know that they are already fitting the Huskies for their crown but is it that far fetched to think that they too could go the way of Alabama or Texas?
Today I heard Rick Neuhisal complain about how old the Aztecs and Owls are and how unfair it is to the rest of the field. Funny, many kids did take their covid year of eligibility but why not look at it this way; the Aztecs are the rare program where kids graduate and stay four years or more. Because they believe in each other, their coaches and the program. No one and done prima donnas in this program, maybe with the exception of Jalen McDaniels but at least he hung around for two.
Look at all the bluebloods that have been bounced so far; Kansas, Texas, Alabama, Duke, Arizona, Indiana, UCLA, Gonzaga, Kentucky, Baylor. This year has been fantastic. Four teams, with limited pedigrees, slaying all the giants. It is the most democratic tournament in the world. You win, you continue to play.
These final four are the lone survivors, one four, two fives and a nine seed. We should have been a four, based on our record but that is water over the bridge. Since 1979 when the NCAA Tournament was first seeded, there’s never been a Final Four without a #1, #2, or #3 seed. Now there is.
This is not the highest I have ever been for a college basketball team. I have to go back a very long time for that.
I was nine years old in 1965, living in El Paso when a team came out of total obscurity, Texas Western and shocked the world by beating Kentucky and winning the national championship.
I can still see the names on the jerseys in my mind's eye: Bobby Joe Hill, David Latin, Orstin Artis and Willie Cager. The first all black starting lineup, the team faced a lot of racism, beating the white Kentucky team that included Pat Riley.
No customary invite to the Ed Sullivan show, in fact when they won the championship no one brought out a ladder for them to cut down the net. But they won, and I followed every game with glee as did the rest of my city. Texas Western was on the map and it quickly became UTEP. Amazing what winning can do for a city.
This is not that. I am no longer a kid and no longer have the same unbridled enthusiasm for sports. But it is close. I am really happy for the place that I went to school for my credential and for my hometown city of San Diego.
You can root for the bluebloods and Goliath all you want, my sympathies will always be with David and the underdogs.
As you know, I have recently become involved in cooking. I have a sudden interest in baking.
I have not baked in over forty years but that is about to stop. Going to start making sour dough in my french oven.
I got starter from a friend and an offer of a starter from another friend. My mother was a fabulous bread and biscuit maker, my brother had a bakery in his restaurant.
I just bought a banneton and hope to have a loaf in the oven this week. I have never made sour dough before and don't have a stand mixer. But I have a new dough whisk and I will try to muddle through.
I made a peach cobbler and brought it to the game, served it with a nice high end vanilla ice cream.
I mixed organic canned peaches with some south American fresh peaches that weren't real sweet but were firm.
Made it in my new Le Creuset ceramic baking oval.
Worked like a charm. I was surprised, my pals really liked it.
I added lots of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla. I am figuring out this baking and cooking thing as I go along. Next one will be even better!
The Aztecs may have one game left, they may even have two. In any case, it is wonderful that they have caught the world's attention. The basketball program has won 20 games or more in 18 out of the last 19 years and won 19 the odd year out. The school's football program has a 7-4 record against Pac-12 schools since 2016, and it made bowl games the past 12 full seasons. In five of the past seven full seasons, San Diego State has won double-digit football games.
Since 2010, San Diego State has the highest combined winning percentage of any Division I school in football and men's basketball at 73.8%, ahead of Ohio State (72.9%) and Oregon (71.1%).
Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Hey, I'm a believer. Go Aztecs! I've decided to have an open basketball marriage, in relationships with both Kentucky and SDSU. (I live in both places, so why not?) I'll be in KY for the Aztecs' first game and in San Diego for the championship.
When I started this post I thought about El Paso. I was going to Loretto than, and even the sisters were talking about it.
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