One often-used phrase has been retired and a never-used one hangs in the balance.

Nobody can ever again say “San Diego State has never won an NCAA tournament game” as long as college basketball and March Madness exists. Definitely overdue to have that phrase booted out of the vocabulary.

The new phrase waiting to be uttered for the initial time is “San Diego State is in the Sweet 16.”

The Aztecs play seventh-seeded Temple in Saturday’s Round of 32 with a berth in the West regional semifinals on the line. Temple defeated Penn State on Thursday when Juan Fernandez hit the last-second, game-winning shot.

It was the Owls’ first NCAA tournament victory in 10 years, an interesting fact when you consider all the tourney damage John Chaney-coached Temple teams did over the years.

Current Temple coach Fran Dunphy is now in danger of losing the nickname that peeves him.

“Fran One-and-Dun-Phy.”

Hard to say if Temple (26-7) has two NCAA tournament wins in them but it’s well-known that it will rank as a major disappointment if the Aztecs (33-2) don’t win Saturday’s contest.

San Diego State is seeded second in the West and playing relatively close to home in Tucson with a potential Sweet 16 contest looming in Anaheim. Temple, of course, is far, far away from its Philadelphia campus.

The Aztecs weren’t all that impressive during the first 26 minutes of their opening victory over Northern Colorado. San Diego State finally pulled away en route to that milestone victory.

Having Temple squeak by Penn State was also a blessing. The Owls have nobody who can defend Kawhi Leonard’s athleticism and if they do decide to gang up on Leonard, then either Malcolm Thomas or Billy White should be able to prowl at will in the interior.

The Owls match up in the backcourt well with the Aztecs – Fernandez against D.J. Gay should be a nice point guard battle – but don’t appear to have the depth that San Diego State possesses.

At this point, every contest is uncharted territory for San Diego State, a team that has never before been a player on the national spotlight. So one of the keys that you don’t find on the stat sheet is how the Aztecs fare with NCAA tournament pressure. It will only increase each step of the way and NCAA tourney regulars like Duke, Arizona, Texas and Connecticut are still alive in the West regional field.

But as for Saturday, there is only thing San Diego State needs to make sure happens – TNT broadcaster Kevin Harlan saying the following as the game against Temple concludes: “San Diego State is headed to the Sweet 16.”

That phrase might stun your eardrums at first but it’s much pleasing than the usual mantra of how San Diego State never wins in the NCAA tournament.


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