UTAH STATE AGGIES

Smith Leads Aggies Into Huge Week Of Season

Feb 26, 2019, 3:48 PM | Updated: 8:14 pm
Utah State Aggies head coach Craig Smith claps in Provo on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. BYU won 95-80. ...
Utah State Aggies head coach Craig Smith claps in Provo on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018. BYU won 95-80. (Jeff Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeff Allred, Deseret News)

LOGAN, Utah – Sports fans in the state of Utah who don’t know the name Craig Smith soon will.

Overall, it’s been a down year for college hoops in the Beehive State. There’s a decent chance that the state will go without a single representative in the NCAA Tournament. Utah State head coach Craig Smith is out to change that with his program’s biggest games of the season coming up this week.

Known for his shiny bald head and his fiery personality, head coach Craig Smith’s first year on the job has already been a smashing success. He inherited a team that finished seventh in the Mountain West Conference and was picked to finish ninth this season in the preseason polls.

Now, with three games left on the schedule, Utah State is just a half game behind No. 12-ranked Nevada for first place. If they manage to create some “Spectrum Magic” at home against San Diego State on Tuesday and then against the Wolf Pack on Saturday, the Aggies could go into the conference tournament as the No. 1 seed with an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament all but locked up. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, the sport’s chief bracketologist, currently has Utah State as one of the last four teams in the Big Dance.

For a team that wasn’t expected to do much of anything, what Smith and the Aggies have done this year is nothing short of remarkable.

Now, with the two biggest games of the season coming down the pipe, Smith is excited but remains grounded.

“It has been a great opportunity. We control our own destiny for winning a Mountain West championship and an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament,” stated Smith. “I’m going to be cliché, but it is one game at a time. We need to control the controllables. We need to play our style of basketball and our brand of basketball.”

That brand of basketball has revolved around the play of its two star players, Sam Merrill and Neemias Queta. Merrill has emerged as one of the conference’s premier offensive weapons, while Queta, a freshman, has anchored the defense in the middle, not unlike how Utah Jazz star Rudy Gobert holds down the fort in the NBA.

For Smith, who has completely bought into the concept of “Spectrum Magic,” having athletes that the Aggie faithful can rally around has been key to the success of the team.

“From Day 1, we’ve heard all about the Spectrum Magic, and we’ve got to get the Magic back. To do that it takes a lot of things. You’ve got to win. You’ve got to have an exciting brand of basketball,” said Smith. “You have to have a group of young men in your program that your fans can be proud of, identify with and appreciate and want to be there to pull for. I have no doubt in my mind that we have that.”

While Smith gives plenty of credit to his players for the Aggies’ success at home, the coach himself has also made himself a major part of the equation. During timeouts and at various times during the game, Smith can be seen shouting and raising his arms at the student section, imploring the HURD for its support.

It seems to be paying off. So far this season, the Aggies hold a 12-1 mark at home.

Now, with the two biggest home games of the season coming up, Smith is asking the student section to bring it even more.

“Let’s get the Spectrum rocking on Tuesday night, first and foremost. Let’s bring the electricity. There’s no doubt that fan support and getting a sellout have a direct impact on winning,” said Smith.

The Aggies’ game against the Aztecs will tip off Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and be broadcast on CBS Sports.

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