Aztecs in NCAA tourney for 3rd straight year; Franklin apologize - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Aztecs in NCAA tourney for 3rd straight year; Franklin apologizes for obscene gesture

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — The San Diego State Aztecs had to wait until the last pairing was announced to find out for sure they're headed to the NCAA tournament for the school-record third straight year.

"I got nervous when we were the last line and we still haven't popped up. I wondered, ‘Did they forget about us?' " coach Steve Fisher said after the Aztecs received the No. 6 seed in the Midwest region, where they'll face No. 11 seed North Carolina State on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.

"Then I felt like we were going to get in," the coach added. "Like our players, I was very excited. It's a privilege to be in the tournament. The moment you start taking for granted that you're going to be in and you have to fake enthusiasm, you're in the wrong business. Whether you're a coach who's been in it 100 times or whether you're a player who's in it for the first time, you've got to be genuinely filled with emotion that you're playing in the greatest tournament in the world and we're part of it. We're very excited."

This is the first-ever at-large selection into the tournament for the Aztecs (26-7). SDSU lost to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament title game on Saturday night, 68-59.

Fisher got the Aztecs back to the NCAAs even though they entered the season largely as an afterthought. The Aztecs lost four starters, including Kawhi Leonard to the NBA, off the team that won a school-record 34 games and reached the Sweet Sixteen last year as the No. 2 seed in the West. Prior to last season, the Aztecs had never won an NCAA tournament game. They reached the regional semifinals before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut.

"To some degree, because a lot of folks said, ‘Wait till next year,' and we're in it this year, it adds to the pleasure," Fisher said. "Yet, a year ago, nobody was more excited than we were. We were in Viejas (Arena). Malcolm Thomas had a net around his head. We were singing and dancing for joy, just like we did this year. That should be the norm. That should be every year, whether you've been there now three years in a row, which is relatively a neophyte in terms of longevity or whether you've been in there 15 years in a row. If you can't know how much of a privilege it is, then something's wrong. We're excited, we're very pleased that we're in it and that we got a six seed. We will be ready to play."

If the Aztecs beat NC State (22-12), they will face the winner of the Georgetown-Belmont game.

"We're a whole new team, a team with a different outlook and people looking at us differently," senior forward Tim Shelton said. "A lot of people didn't think we'd be here so it goes to show that we've worked hard and we deserve to be here."

Also Sunday, guard Jamaal Franklin, the MWC Player of the Year, apologized for making an obscene gesture to what he said was a heckling New Mexico fan just before halftime of Saturday night's game.

"I just let my emotions get the best of me," Franklin said. "And I promise you I will never let my program or team down again."

The gesture was caught by TV cameras. Some people thought it was directed toward the referee who had just whistled Franklin for a foul.

"I did get the finger out, I can't lie about that," Franklin said. "A Lobo fan was bothering me the whole time, calling me the ‘N' word and talking about my family. He just got under my skin, which I should have never let him do."

Said Fisher: "He allowed his emotions to get the better of him and he reacted to some Lobos fans in a fashion that is unacceptable."

The Mountain West Conference announced Sunday that Franklin was issued a public reprimand for violation of the league's sportsmanship policy.

 

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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