ESPN’s Lunardi Has USU Playing NCAA Tournament In SLC

Mar 4, 2019, 11:22 AM | Updated: 11:45 am
Utah State Aggies guard Sam Merrill (5) drives against Weber State Wildcats guard Cody John (5) at ...
Utah State Aggies guard Sam Merrill (5) drives against Weber State Wildcats guard Cody John (5) at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – By defeating No.12-ranked Nevada at home, the Utah State Aggies may have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

For a team that was picked to finish ninth in the Mountain West Conference, this has been a fantastic and memorable season under first-year head coach Craig Smith. The Aggies currently sit at 24-6 and are in the driver’s seat to claim at least a share of the conference regular season title.

The latest bracketology report by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has the Aggies in the tournament, which is a huge accomplishment in itself.

The real story, however, may be where the Aggies could end up playing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament: Salt Lake City.

That’s where Lunardi has the Aggies playing as an 11 seed while projecting them to face 6-seeded Villanova.

All season long, the Aggies have hung their hat on playing their home games in front of an incredible, raucous crowd at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. The home court advantage, or “Spectrum Magic,” as Smith and the Aggie faithful like to call it, has lifted the Aggies to a 14-1 record at home this season.

The possibility of Utah State playing in the Big Dance just 83 miles away from home seems almost too good to be true. If the Aggies do end up in Salt Lake City as an 11 seed to begin the NCAA Tournament, it’s not unrealistic to think that they could have a prolonged run on the biggest stage in sports.

In fact, the 11 seed may the best place, statistically speaking, for the Aggies to be.

Should the Aggies end up as the 11 seed and face Villanova in the first round, they’ll definitely have their work cut out for them, but history says that a win is very possible.

Since 1985, an 11 seed has beaten a 6 seed 51 times. It’s not a gimme game by any means as they’ll be playing the defending national champs, but a 11 over 6 upset has happened 37.5 percent of the time.

In the same vein of research, the tournament has seen 22 11 seeds end up in the Sweet 16, more than any other lower seed.

Also, eight 11 seeds have continued onto the Eight Eight and four have gone to the final four.

Last season, Loyola Chicago made an incredible run as an 11 seed all the way to the Final Four.

It’s outlandish and bold to think that Utah State could do the same thing, but it’s not crazy to think that they could at least pull off a win or two in the tournament, especially if the selection committee sends the Aggies to Salt Lake City.

Especially with an arena full of Utah State-crazed fans as Vivint Smart Home Arena would undoubtedly be.

Utah State’s success this year is definitely the story of the college basketball scene in Utah. If the stars align and the Aggies end up playing in Salt Lake City, they could be the biggest story in the country.

It’s March, let the madness begin.


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ESPN’s Lunardi Has USU Playing NCAA Tournament In SLC