Three thoughts on San Diego State’s 51-48 win against New Mexico at Viejas Arena on Saturday night to claim the outright Mountain West championship:

1. Now what? The Aztecs are 27-3 and likely headed to Spokane, Wash., for the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament as, according to the latest projections, a 3 seed. Between that, though, is the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas.

It’s a valid question: How important is it?

Probably not very much in terms of their NCAA seed, given their 30-game resume and outright MW title. The selection committee has to worry about seeding 67 other teams, and they’re not going to spend the week obsessing over the postseason tournament of nation’s 10th-rated conference. The Aztecs should be slotted into a spot before they take the floor Thursday in Vegas against Utah State or Colorado State.

The next question, then, becomes the tricky one: Are the Aztecs better served by playing three games in three days or losing early and going home?

Coach Steve Fisher is a proponent of the former, believing that you want and try to win everything, all the time. But other coaches, in a candid moment, will admit they’d prefer the rest if your NCAA Tournament place is secure – particularly if you’re headed to a Thursday-Saturday pod, as the Aztecs would be in Spokane, instead of Friday-Sunday.

The one thing you don’t want to do is play three games in three days and lose in the final, then get on a plane for Spokane on Tuesday. Otherwise, it’s a win-win. You hang another banner and maintain momentum, or you save your legs for the Big Dance.

2. Get a TO, baby: His team’s grip on a third straight Mountain West title was slipping before his eyes, and New Mexico coach Craig "Noodles" Neal just stood there and watched.

At one point during SDSU’s furious closing rally, he turned to his assistants and asked how many timeouts he had. Plenty, came the answer. He turned back to the court and let ’em continue playing.

Fisher switched to a zone with 11:39 left. The next stoppage was a media timeout at 7:40 and Neal called a 30-second timeout at 6:45. Too late. By then a 16-point lead was down to two.

The New Mexico fan boards have been hammering him for it.

“Does Craig know we can call a timeout?”

“Place going nuts and we wait for a TV timeout? Not good!”

“How do you watch a (16-point) lead slip away and not call a timeout? How? … Coach lost this one.”

In Neal’s defense, he has not been quick with the timeout trigger all season. Some coaches view timeouts as a sign of weakness, as an unnecessary concession to failure, and prefer to have their teams build character by sorting it out on the floor themselves – while saving timeouts for the closing minutes.

“I thought we’d be able to handle it,” Neal said of SDSU’s 1-3-1 zone, “and we didn’t do a very good job of that.”