SAN DIEGO — Suddenly, this is a basketball town.
The most obvious indication? Hundreds of San Diego State students camped outside Viejas Arena this week to get tickets to today's (noon MT, CBS) epic rematch on national television between the No. 6 Aztecs and No. 7 BYU.
Among other things, it's a showdown between The Show and The Jimmer Show.
The rowdy SDSU student section, which is known as The Show, is eager to welcome the Cougars, and, specifically, their superstar guard, Jimmer Fredette, who lit up the Aztecs for 43 points last month at the Marriott Center.
The past two weeks, The Show has been chanting, "We want Jimmer!" And Fredette, whose scoring exploits are commonly known around the country as The Jimmer Show, is happy to absorb whatever the rabid San Diego State fans can dish out.
"Now they get their chance," said Fredette, who celebrated his 22nd birthday on Friday. "We're looking forward to playing. It's going to be a great game. It's going to be a great atmosphere. Hopefully, we can go out and get a win. It will be tough, but I think we can do it."
The Show features students who have taunted the Cougars in the past by dressing up as LDS missionaries. They shouted, "You're still Mormon!" during last year's game at Viejas Arena.
This week, SDSU coach Steve Fisher e-mailed a letter to students, imploring them to exhibit class.
"It is important to remember that when you are in the student section, you represent something greater than yourself. You represent San Diego State," read part of the message. "We cannot cross the line into topics that are out of bounds and distasteful, particularly making fun of one's religion."
That's just one of the many intriguing subplots and storylines heading into this titanic tilt between two top-10 teams — billed as the biggest regular-season game in Mountain West Conference history. The two teams' combined record is an amazing 53-3.
This game is even bigger than their meeting a month ago, when BYU earned a 71-58 victory at the Marriott Center, handing the Aztecs their first — and only ?— loss of the season. Fredette called this "the biggest game in BYU history," adding that "this game becomes even bigger" than last month's because the two teams have had just one loss between them since.
Hanging in the balance are conference championship implications and NCAA Tournament seeding implications.
By now, the Cougars are used to hostile environments on the road, playing before sellouts on a regular basis. BYU will be counting on its offense to combat the loud, sellout crowd.
"The most important thing is to score consistently and not have long droughts because that kind of feeds the frenzy of the opposing team," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "If you can get the other team to go three or four minutes a couple of times without scoring, that really helps. But if you can consistently score throughout the game, that kind of keeps the roof on."
San Diego State has won 18 straight home games, dating back to January of last year, when BYU won here, 71-69.
In last month's game, the athletic Aztecs outrebounded the Cougars, and that's something that concerns BYU this time around.
"We just need to make sure we do a good job of keeping them off the glass," Fredette said. "That's always the biggest concern with them. They can score the ball, they can shoot and play defense. They go after the ball and get second shots."
Aztec forward Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and pulled down 15 boards against the Cougars.
"He's just got a great feel for where the ball is coming off the rim," Rose said. "He's a quick jumper, really strong, big hands. All the things you need. I think his heart is probably what makes him the best. He's relentless. He doesn't quit. He knows when he needs to make a big play for his team. He's been able to do it for most of the year."
Fredette is expecting another physical battle today.
"It's definitely going to be very, very physical," he said. "We realize that and we're prepared for it. You never know how the game's going to be called, if they'll call those fouls or if they won't. You just have to adjust within the game, and hopefully we'll be just as physical as they will."
While this matchup is huge, Fredette managed to put it in perspective.
"It's a big game in every aspect. It could help our team in what we want to accomplish. It could help me in what I want to accomplish," Fredette said. "But it's not the end of the world. Regardless if we win or lose, it's not going to make or break us. But it would be nice to win and have a good game. That's what we're prepared to do."
Cougars on the air
Viejas Arena, San Diego
Saturday, noon MT
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM57 comments on this story
Season series: BYU leads, 1-0
SDSU leads the nation with 27 wins and owns the best winning percentage (.964) in college basketball. ... The Aztecs' 18-game home winning streak is sixth-longest in the nation. ... Last team to beat SDSU at Viejas Arena was BYU, which earned a 71-69 victory on Jan. 23, 2010. ... Showdown matches the nation's eighth-ranked scoring offense (the Cougars average 83 ppg) against the No. 7 scoring defense (Aztecs give up an average of 58.6 ppg).