SDSU vs. USD: Big Game, Small Following

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As rivalries go tonight's basketball game between San Diego State and the University of San Diego will not be confused with the ones being played this week on the East Coast in the nationally televised match up of Atlantic Coast and Big East conference teams.

SDSU and USD are not Top 20 powers preparing to put a national ranking and postseason hopes on the line; they are a pair of 2-3 teams trying to establish some credibility.

But in a city where the average college basketball game draws a couple of thousand spectators, this game at 7:35 p.m. at the San Diego Sports Arena might be as good as it gets: The two leading programs in the city playing for the Mayor's Trophy.

Of course, the fact that the mayor has never attended the game to present the trophy might say something about the significance of the event in the overall scheme of the city. Nevertheless, the respective coaches were sounding this week as if the game did have some special meaning, even if it took the coaxing of questions from the media.

"I know this game is important to us," USD Coach Hank Egan said. "We take it very seriously."

And from SDSU Coach Jim Brandenburg: "It's important for us; it's important for basketball in this city."

Part of the reason the game might be missing some of the electricity of other inner-city rivalries is that almost all the players are from somewhere else. None of the projected starters and only five players from the teams combined are from San Diego County.

And while the coaches and players work to muster some enthusiasm for the game, the city has not wildly embraced the game. SDSU officials are predicting a crowd of between 3,500-4,000 in the 13,741-capacity Sports Arena.

The game resumes a series that had been contested almost annually since it began in 1962-63. The teams did not meet last season because they could not agree on an alternate date after their originally agreed upon date at the Sports Arena was taken by the Moscow Circus.

Until recently, the Aztecs had dominated the series, which began in 1962-63, winning 15 of the 23 games. But the Toreros had won the past three in a row before last year's break.

Just because the Aztecs and Toreros are back together on the court, that does not mean all will be settled among the city's college basketball teams this year. There is a third party involved: U.S. International.

The Gulls, the city's third major-college program, will play SDSU for a sixth consecutive season but will not meet USD. For the second consecutive season, there is the possibility that no clear-cut champion will emerge from among the city's major-college teams.

USD and USIU were unable to reach an agreement to continue the four-year-old series. The sticking point was USIU's request that for the first time some of the games be played on its home court at Golden Hall and that USD agree to use some referees of USIU's choosing.

With the USD-USIU series dead for now, tonight's game likely will have to serve as an unofficial city championship. For a city still trying to create a college basketball tradition, that will have to do for now.

Game Notes

The game is part of a double-header that will begin at 5:15 p.m. with a game between the San Diego State and University of San Diego women's teams. SDSU has won all 17 games in the series. . . The men's game will open the season's coverage of SDSU basketball on KFMB radio.

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