NCAA Mountain West SDSU
The Aztecs practice last month. Photo credit: @Aztec_MBB, via Twitter

San Diego State takes on Air Force at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in their first game in the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas.

No. 9 seed Air Force beat No. 8 seed Fresno State 77-70 Wednesday, earning the right to face top-seeded SDSU in one of four tournament quarterfinals being played Thursday.

The Aztecs, ranked No. 5 in the nation, went 28-1 during the regular season. Their only loss came in conference play, against UNLV on Feb. 22. Air Force had a 12-19 record on the year.

At stake? The Mountain West’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 17.

The players know their success makes them a target. KJ Feagin said SDSU will “get everybody’s best shot.” Malachi Flynn, the Mountain West Player of the Year, said in the tourney “our record doesn’t matter.”

“Everybody is 0-0 at this point and we gotta go prove ourselves again,” he said. “That’s how we gotta look at it.”

San Diego State has fared well in the tournament, just not necessarily as its top seed.

The Aztecs won the tournament championship a record five times, in  2002, ’06, ’10, ’11 and ’18. They only held the top seed, though in 2006. In other years as a top seed, 2012, ’14 and ’16, they advanced to the championship game but lost.

Senior Yanni Wetzell, though, is focused on the here and now.

“It’s the month that we’ve all been working for, for our whole lives almost, you know. For all of us, we’re all very excited to get going and get this conference tournament underway,” he said.

In other action Wednesday, No. 7 seed New Mexico eliminated No. 10 San Jose State, 79-66. The Lobos will play No. 2 seed Utah State at 6 p.m Thursday. In the late game, No. 11 seed Wyoming upset No. 6 seed Colorado State, winning 80-74. Wyoming will meet No. 3 Nevada at 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

If San Diego State moves forward, their semi-final, set for 6 p.m. Friday, could be a rematch with UNLV. The championship takes place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.

– Staff reports