It has been a long climb at a steep angle, but Fresno State coach Rodney Terry and the Bulldogs have won 20 games three times in the past four years and reached the NCAA Tournament and NIT the past two seasons, polishing the profile of a program that was in poor shape before his arrival.
It’s starting to draw some attention.
Fresno State is one of eight programs in the West to have advanced to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT in each of the past two seasons. The others are Arizona, Cal, Bakersfield, Gonzaga, Saint Mary's, Oregon and USC.
The Bulldogs, sources said, will play next season in the Wooden Legacy, a prestigious eight-team tournament played over the Thanksgiving weekend that in past years has drawn solid fields of Power Five and mid-major programs.
UCLA defeated Texas A&M to win the tournament championship last season, the Bruins and Aggies working through brackets that included Dayton, Nebraska, Virginia Tech, New Mexico, Portland and Cal State Northridge.
Michigan State won the title with a victory over Providence in 2015. The field that year included Arizona, Boston College, Boise State, Evansville, UC Irvine and Santa Clara.
The field for the 2018 tournament has not been announced, but this year San Diego State, Washington State, Saint Mary’s, Saint Joseph’s, Georgia, Harvard, Cal State Fullerton and Sacramento State are in the Wooden Legacy Field.
All of the tournament games are televised on ESPN networks and this year and next will be played at Titan Gym on the Cal State Fullerton campus – in past years the championship game has been at the Honda Center in Anaheim.
The Bulldogs this season are playing in the Cancun Challenge, which includes home games against Cal State Northridge and Montana State, a Nov. 21 game in Cancun against Evansville and a Nov. 22 spot in the third place or championship game in their division.
Louisiana Tech and George Mason are the other teams in the Riviera Division with the Bulldogs and Purple Aces.
Montana State, Binghamton, Southeast Missouri and Cal State Northridge are Mayan Division.
Terry is entering his seventh season at Fresno State, taking over a program in 2011-12 that had finished in seventh place in the Western Athletic Conference. After going 13-20 in his first season Terry and the Bulldogs took a significant step up to the Mountain West Conference and were 11-19 before putting together the first 20-win season at Fresno State in eight years, going 21-18 in 2013-14 and advancing to the championship series of the College Basketball Invitational.
The Bulldogs have gone 20-13 and 25-10 the past two seasons, winning the Mountain West Tournament in 2015-16. Their appearance in the NCAA Tournament that season was the first for Fresno State since 2000-01.
Fresno State has four of its top five scorers returning this season in guards Jaron Hopkins, Deshon Taylor and Jahmel Taylor and forward/center Bryson Williams and will play exhibitions on Oct. 30 against Pacific Union and Nov. 3 against UC Merced and open its season on Nov. 10 against UC Santa Cruz.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada