Aggies Should Go Dancing

Last
night the Spectrum was rocking as freshman Justin Bean had a breakout
performance to lead the second half surge for Utah State on the way
to the 71-55 win against New Mexico. Craig Smith has lead the Aggies
to wins in 11 of their last 13 games to get to (20-6, 11-3). This
team has come a long way since the start of Mountain West play and
should find themselves in the field of 68 three weeks from this
Sunday.

Predicted
to finish ninth in the preseason Utah State is in sole possession of
second place with their destiny in their own hands. Nevada has two
conference losses and comes to the Spectrum a week from Saturday in a
game that will decide the champion and potential and March bracket
spot for the Aggies.

Bracket
rankings have Utah State just on the outside looking in, a signature
win away to give them a tournament resume. In Quadrant 3 and 4 the
Aggies are 17-1, the only loss a 78-77 home game against Fresno State
the Aggies got revenge with a Quadrant 2 win at Fresno State 82-81.
Three of the last four games in the regular season will be Quardrant
3 games the Aggies can’t lose.

Where
the Aggies will get picked apart is the 1-2 Quardrant 1 and 2-3
Quadrant 2 records. St. Mary’s is the Q1 win on a neutral court and
the Fresno State and UC Irvine road wins in Q2. This is why the
Nevada game is so crucial. The Aggies claim would be the team
figuring itself out and being a completely different team since then.
The last Q1 game was December 12th
against Nevada. USU got two Q2 wins in December and have split two in
February.

In
the Mountain West tournament there’s a chance to get a Q2 win the
semifinals and a potential championship game against Nevada, and
losing to Nevada three times may be too much for the committee to put
Utah State in the field of 68. USU needs at least one win against
Nevada to show they can beat the top teams and seal the bracket
resume.

Predictions
now have the Aggies winning their last four, including at home
against Nevada, and they’ve moved up to 43 in RPI after the win
against New Mexico. Even without the Nevada win Utah State should
still finish (24-7, 14-4) and can add another one in the conference
tournament. 25 wins is a pretty impressive number, though the
Mountain West conference is not a strong conference. It’s ranked 15
in RPI behind the Ivy League, Conference USA, Southern and Missouri
Valley, but Utah State has taken care of business. The Aggies avenged
the loss to Fresno State and can even up against San Diego State on
Tuesday.

While
the quadrant wins may not be the strongest for the Aggies they pass
the eye test. Utah State ranks 44th
in points per game allowed at 66th
and 11 at 2 point FG percentage at 39.1%. On offense they’re 7th
in assists per game at 17.3, 43th
at points per game with 78.4 and 29th
at assists to turnover ratio of 1.34.

Craig
Smith’s squad has shown the ability to lock down opposing teams and
go on runs behind their star player Sam Merrill. Merrill is averaging
almost 20 points per game, Neemias Queta is a double double machine,
now at 12 points per game and over 9 rebounds while being a
legitimate rim protector with 2.6 blocks per game. The Aggies also
have depth behind those two with five players averaging between 7.4
to 8.5 points per game.

Utah
State can score, shoot, play defense and has a star player that can
carry them through tough situations. The Aggies look like a bracket
team, should have at least 25 wins and still have a chance to wrap it
up with a bow when the Wolfpack comes to the Spectrum next Saturday.
It has been 11 years since the Aggies went dancing and the streak
should be broken this year.