Strong Start By Aggies Makes Utah State Top In-State Squad

Jan 16, 2019, 11:13 AM | Updated: Jan 21, 2019, 9:40 am

(Wyoming Athletics)...

(Wyoming Athletics)

(Wyoming Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The second week of Conference play has begun for the in-state college basketball programs. So far, the Utah State Aggies have played the best basketball and are currently the top ranked team in the Division I Beehive State rankings.

While only Southern Utah and Weber State play in the same conference, many of the in-state programs played against each other in non-conference play.

It’s a bit of muddled mess looking at how the teams have fared against each other as there has been some serious cannibalizing among the teams.

For example:

  • BYU lost to Weber State, but has wins over Utah Valley, Utah State and Utah.
  • Weber State beat BYU, but lost to Utah State, Southern Utah and Utah Valley
  • Utah State lost to BYU, but beat Utah Valley and Weber State.
  • Utah lost to BYU, but has wins over Grand Canyon, who beat Utah Valley; and Arizona State, who beat Utah State.
  • Utah Valley defeated Weber State but lost to BYU and Utah State.
  • Southern Utah squeaked out a win over Weber State.

With all that said, it’s going to be a difficult year for college basketball in the state of Utah. It looks very likely that the state won’t have a single representative in the NCAA Tournament this spring, but anything could happen now that conference play has begun.

ESPN puts out a Basketball Power Index, also known as BPI, that measures a team’s strength going forward. The NCAA Tournament Selection Committee has a metric called “Strength of Record” that reflects the chance a typical 25th ranked team would have team’s record or better, given the schedule on a 0 to 100 scale, where 100 is the best.

Here’s the first edition of the KSL Sports in-state college basketball power rankings from games played Monday, January 7 to Sunday January 13:

1. Utah State Aggies (12-5, 2-2)
ESPN BPI Rating: 7.6, No. 52

Wins: at Wyoming (-8.2 BPI, No. 321)

Losses: vs. Fresno State (6.4 BPI, No. 65)

Strength of Record: 65

Recap: The Aggies had the lead over Fresno State for 39:55 before the Bulldogs made the go-ahead basket to pick up a big 78-77 win in Logan, giving the Aggies their first loss at home this season. Sam Merrill had 16 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists on just 3-of-10 shooting from the field but hit 9-for-11 at the free throw line. Neemias Queta also scored 16 points to go with 9 rebounds and 6 blocks. Utah State allowed Fresno State’s Braxton Huggins to go off for 33 points, including 8-of-13 from downtown.

It took the Aggies most of the first half to get into a rhythm and play to their abilities. The Cowboys had a lead early that reached eight points but Utah State countered and had a 32-25 halftime lead. From there, Utah State was able to coast to a 71-55 win over Wyoming, the first time that Utah State won in Laramie since 1962. Merrill led the way with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists, Queta added 14 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Dwayne Brown Jr. added 13 points and Diogo Brito had 10 points off the bench.

Next Up: at San Jose State (3-12, 0-3 MWC) at 8 p.m. on the Mountain West Network. They will host Colorado State (7-10, 2-2 MWC) on Saturday at 7 p.m. on the Mountain West Network.

2. Utah Valley Wolverines (12-6, 1-2 WAC)
ESPN BPI Rating: 1.6, No. 143

Wins: Seattle (-0.3 BPI, No. 174)

Strength of Record: 95

Recap: The Wolverines had to really claw their way back into this game, the Redhawks had a 20 point lead with 9 minutes left in the first half before Utah Valley made their run. Seattle held a 50-37 lead at halftime. The Wolverines outscored Seattle 51-28 in the second half to pick up the 88-78 win. Jake Toolson scored 26 points to lead Utah Valley, Isaiah White had 14 points and Richard Harward put up 12 points and 15 rebounds.

Next Up: vs. UT Rio Grande Valley (9-10, 1-2 WAC) at 7 p.m. on the KSL TV app. They will also host New Mexico State (13-4, 2-1 WAC) on Saturday at 7 p.m. on the KSL TV app.

3. BYU Cougars (11-8, 3-1 WCC)
ESPN BPI Rating: 4.6, No. 91

Wins: Portland (-8.6 BPI, No. 324) and Santa Clara (-2.8 BPI, No. 224)

Strength of Record: 145

Recap: After a tough 22-point loss at St. Mary’s in the previous game, BYU was able to overcome a slow start in the first half to dominate the Pilots in the second half by outscoring them 43-26 to pick up the 79-56 win. Yoeli Childs had a fantastic performance with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists while shooting 9-of-13 from the field and 2-for-4 from downtown. McKay Cannon was the only other BYU player to reach double figures with 11 points.

This game was closer than what BYU fans had hoped for but the Cougars were able to squeak out the 80-74 win. Childs was outstanding once again with 27 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals. He was named West Coast Conference Player of the Week. T.J. Haws poured in 16 points, 8 assists and 5 rebounds while Luke Worthington scored a career-high 13 points.

Next Up: at Pepperdine (9-9, 2-2 WCC) on Thursday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU and KSL Newsradio. They will also travel to San Francisco (10-1, 2-1 WCC) on Saturday at 9 p.m. on TheW.tv and KSL Newsradio.

4. Utah Utes (8-8, 2-2 Pac-12)
ESPN BPI Rating: 0.8, No. 155

Wins: Washington State (-3.1 BPI, No. 230)

Losses: Washington (7.2 BPI, No. 55)

Strength of Record: 152

Recap: The lead changed only two times with the Huskes putting the clamps down defensively. They held Utah to their season low in points with a 69-53 win at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. Jayce Johnson led the Utes with 12 points and 8 rebounds, Donnie Tillman added 10 points.

A 15-0 run late in the first half was all that the Utes needed to beat Washington State, 88-70. Six Utes scored in double figures, led by Timmy Allen with 15 points, Both Gach added 14 points, Riley Battin and Charles Jones each had 11 points, Sedrick Barefield and Parker Van Dyke each chipped in 10 points.

Next Up: vs. Colorado (10-6, 1-3 Pac-12) on Sunday at 4 p.m. on ESPNU.

5. Weber State Wildcats (10-6, 4-1 Big Sky)
ESPN BPI Rating: 0.1, No. 170

Wins: Portland State (-4.0 BPI, No. 249)

Strength of Record: 169

Recap: The largest lead for Weber State was seven in overtime. Portland State once had a 10 point lead very early in the game. For the most part, the game was tightly contested with the Vikings hitting a three-pointer in the final minute to send the game to overtime. The Wildcats outscored Portland State 13-6 in overtime to pick up the 95-88 win. Jerrick Harding scored 23 points to lead Weber State, Brekkott Chapman notched another double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Zach Braxton chipped in 18 points and Cody John added 17. Outside of those four players, Weber State scored just 18 points.

Next Up: vs. Idaho State (7-7, 3-2 Big Sky) on Thursday at 7 p.m. on Pluto TV Channel 235. They will host Northern Colorado (11-6, 5-1 Big Sky) on Saturday at 7 p.m. on Pluto TV Channel 235.

6. Southern Utah Thunderbirds (7-7, 2-3 Big Sky)
ESPN BPI Ranking: -5.4, No. 279

Wins: Northern Arizona (-7.9 BPI, No. 316)

Strength of Record: 205

Recap: Southern Utah let a 12 point second half lead slip away late in the game but Dre Marin was able to nail the game-winning jump shot with one second left to give the Thunderbirds an 84-82 win over the Lumberjacks. Cameron Oluyitan had 18 points to lead SUU, Harrison Butler and Jacob Calloway scored 17 points apiece while Marin added 13 points and 7 assists.

Next Up: vs. Portland State (6-9, 1-3 Big Sky) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on Pluto TV Channel 236. They will face Sacramento State (6-7, 0-4 Big Sky) at home on Saturday at 1 p.m. on Pluto TV Channel 236.


Power Rankings


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Strong Start By Aggies Makes Utah State Top In-State Squad