Sports

X-factor: Thames playing at an 'elite' level in leading San Diego State to Sweet 16

  • San Diego State's Xavier Thames shoots against North Dakota State in the first half during the third round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

    San Diego State's Xavier Thames shoots against North Dakota State in the first half during the third round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)  (The Associated Press)

  • San Diego State’s Xavier Thames (2) and Aqeel Quinn (10) react after a basket by teammate Xavier Thames in the first half during the third-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament against North Dakota State in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

    San Diego State‚Äôs Xavier Thames (2) and Aqeel Quinn (10) react after a basket by teammate Xavier Thames in the first half during the third-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament against North Dakota State in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)  (The Associated Press)

  • San Diego State's Xavier Thames (2) tries to drive the lane in front of North Dakota State's Chris Kading in the first half during the third-round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

    San Diego State's Xavier Thames (2) tries to drive the lane in front of North Dakota State's Chris Kading in the first half during the third-round of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Spokane, Wash., Saturday, March 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)  (The Associated Press)

San Diego State's journey to just its second Sweet 16 appearance began the day point guard Xavier Thames traded the wheat fields of eastern Washington for the beaches of Southern California.

The senior point guard will lead the fourth-seeded Aztecs against top-seeded Arizona in the West Regional semifinals Thursday night in Anaheim.

Thames started his college career at Washington State, having signed his letter of intent before coach Tony Bennett left Pullman for Virginia. Thames played his freshman season and then transferred to San Diego State, which had been on his top-five list while being recruited out of Pleasant Grove High in Sacramento.

Thames scored 30 points and had five assists in leading the Aztecs to a 63-44, third-round victory against North Dakota State to reach the regionals.