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San Diego State “villains” cheered for FGCU

San Diego State’s players understand they will be the villains of the piece when they meet 15th-seeded Florida Gulf Coast University in a third-round NCAA Tournament game Sunday night at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The Aztecs will have their little core of fans, but it likely will feel like a true road game, especially if the Eagles get their fast break going and start throwing down dunks, as they did Friday night in upsetting Georgetown.

Aztecs star Jamaal Franklin said he's accustomed to being the bad guy in opposing arenas. "I always go to every arena, and everybody hates me, so, I'm used to it," Franklin said. "I just can't wait to play."

They might be playing in the tournament, but the seventh-seeded Aztecs are fans, too. They watched part of the first half of FGCU-Georgetown from the stands to get a feel for the arena, and they continued watching on television in the locker room before their own game against Oklahoma.

Guess who they were cheering for? “We went out and were sitting there and watching the game,” guard Chase Tapley said. “It’s exciting. You’re seeing an upset happen before your eyes. You try not to jump up, try not to celebrate, but man, it’s just part of the ‘Madness.’

“We watched it in the locker room. We were tuned in to the TV until the very last second, and when we saw the upset, we were like, we’ve got to focus.” On the Sooners, he meant.

Forward DeShawn Stephens added, “When we were watching that game, I felt like a fan. It was exciting. I didn’t really think about that’s who we would play next. I was just watching two great teams play.”

Luckily for the Aztecs, FGCU isn’t an unknown quantity to San Diego State coach Steve Fisher. As he explained in Saturday’s interview session, “I probably knew more about them than any coach in America because I’ve got a condo in Fort Myers Beach, a stone’s throw from Florida Gulf Coast. I read about it starting sports. I’ve been on the campus. I’ve toured it.

“They’re good. I think it’s legitimate…I am an admirer, and if we weren’t playing them, I’d probably be a fan.”

But not Sunday night. That’s when the Aztecs will try to put the brakes on March Madness.