SAN DIEGO -- Saturday's Top 10 showdown between BYU and San Diego State won't begin until "The Show" begins.
Minutes before the 11 a.m. PST tipoff, on cue from SDSU running back Ronnie Hillman, a few thousand students will begin chanting "I believe that we will win" while jumping up and down in a sort of vertical mosh pit stretching from the front row behind the east baseline to the top row of Viejas Arena. There will be a gecko, a Spider-Man, an elf, a 12-year-old kid dressed as a banana -- his dad's a booster -- and others in wacky costumes.They'll continue making noise of some sort during the nationally televised game, until the No. 6 Aztecs have either gained revenge for their only loss or been foiled again by Jimmer Fredette and the No. 7 Cougars.
The 27-1 record and No. 6 ranking aren't the only indications that Steve Fisher's once-lowly Aztecs have hit the big time in college basketball.
Conveniently located near the visitors' bench, the ever-expanding student section has given the Aztecs a formidable home-court advantage in the 12,414-seat arena, which has been sold out for most of this breakout season. The Aztecs have gone 13-0 while feeding off "The Show." Opposing coaches have lauded it. Fredette has noticed it before.
While school officials keep their fingers crossed that "The Show" won't push the limits of decency, as some felt it did last year against BYU, the noise could be earsplitting on Saturday.
"I don't know if the anticipation can get any bigger than it already is," said sixth-year senior Matt Bishop, one of the core members of "The Show."
Bishop recalls past seasons when he could buy a ticket 15 minutes before tipoff and still get a front-row seat. This week, he had to camp out overnight to get tickets, just like the rest of the students did. That was supposed to be something that went on at Duke and other blue blood basketball schools, not at SDSU. But that's how hot of a ticket the Aztecs have become.
"It's a really good problem to have. We love it. It's awesome," Bishop said. "We're not a Pac-10 school and we don't have that much basketball tradition. We're just living the moment."
After games, SDSU players walk over to high-five students.
"'The Show' is, to me, the best student section I've seen in college basketball," senior forward Malcolm Thomas said. "If we're not executing, they just cheer and give us all sorts of energy. I know they're hyped for this game, and they'll help a lot."
Last year, as Cougars fans began chanting "BYU! BYU!" at the end of a 71-69 win over the Aztecs, some in the SDSU student section responded with chants of "You're still Mormon!"
SDSU officials felt that was out-of-bounds. Earlier this week, Fisher sent an e-mail to students, asking them to keep it classy and not cross the line by making fun of someone else's religion.
"A lot of that comes from 30 rows out," Bishop said. "It's tough to regulate what a drunk frat boy starts chanting. We don't participate in that. We try to regulate that."
Still, Bishop admitted, "we were like a train going full speed" in planning for Saturday's game. "Then coach Fisher sent out his e-mail to keep it classy. We talked to some of the marketing people and thought, 'Uh-oh, we better put on the brakes.' "
Then again, BYU is SDSU's most-hated rival.
"We don't want to insult or harm anyone," Bishop said. "I shouldn't say that. We do want to insult BYU. But we don't want to significantly offend anyone. We do like to poke fun and have fun."
Bishop said there are still plans for some students to dress as Mormon missionaries, with white shirts, black ties, bike helmets and backpacks. At some point, they'll ditch those props and break out their red and black Aztecs gear.
Last year, Fredette scored 33 points against SDSU despite being slowed by strep throat and mononucleosis.
An Aztecs fan brought a sign reading: "Which wife gave you mono?"
"Jimmer laughed at it and we took a picture with some BYU fans," Bishop said.
"Their fans have been very, very good this year," said Fredette, who scored 43 points in BYU's 71-58 win against SDSU at Provo on Jan. 26. "They really know that their team is top in the nation and they're on it. They're excited for us to come into their building and we're excited to go there and play. It's going to be a great college-atmosphere game.
"It's going to be one of the biggest games the Mountain West Conference has ever seen, so I'm just looking forward to the challenge," Fredette said.
After Air Force lost 68-55 here last month, coach Jeff Reynolds shook hands with SDSU students and credited them with creating "a great atmosphere."
Point guard D.J. Gay said "The Show" has probably crossed the line before and probably will do so again Saturday.
"I would ask that 'The Show' come up with the funniest, craziest things they can come up with to help distract Jimmer at the free throw line," Gay said. "Just to be as creative as they can be and be our sixth man."
That's a big ask, considering that Fredette made seven straight free throws late in the SDSU game a month ago, and hit 10 of 11 overall.
Paraphrasing a line from "The Dark Knight," Bishop said: "We are whatever SDSU needs us to be. If we need to be a villain to get inside Jimmer's head, we will."