UTAH STATE AGGIES

Craig Smith Reacts To USU’s NCAA Tournament Bid

Mar 17, 2019, 6:36 PM
Utah State Aggies head coach Craig Smith...
Utah State Aggies head coach Craig Smith cheers on his team during a Mountain West Conference semifinal game against the Fresno State Bulldogs at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Friday, March 15, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – With his voice still hoarse from winning some of the biggest games in the program’s history, Utah State head coach Craig Smith sat down to speak with KSL Sports’ Jeremiah Jensen after learning his team’s fate for the NCAA Tournament.

It was revealed during Selection Sunday that the Aggies will be headed to face Washington as an 8-seed in the Big Dance.

The game will tip off from Columbus, Ohio on Friday.

The Aggies punched their ticket to the Tournament after winning the Mountain West Conference tournament with a victory over San Diego State in the title game.

Speaking to Jensen, Smith reflected on the Aggies’ remarkable season in his first year as head coach.

“It’s been a magical season,” said Smith. “Truly a special team, special players, special coaches and we’re so fired up to represent the state of Utah, Cache Valley, in the NCAA Tournament. I can’t speak highly enough to the character of this team and the comradery and chemistry that this team has.”

While the team’s success has come quickly for Smith, who was hired by Utah State athletic director John Hartwell not even a year ago, the vision has always been there.

“From day one, almost a year ago, in my press conference, our number one goal was to get to the top of the Mountain West and back to where we belong, in the NCAA Tournament and not only get to the NCAA Tournament but win when we get there,” said Smith.

Sizing Up The Huskies

The Aggies’ opponent in the tournament, Washington, could be a tough draw for the Aggies. The Huskies won the Pac-12 Conference regular season crowd and then advanced all the way to the championship game in the tournament. The Huskies were defeated by Oregon 68-48 in the title game.

While Smith admitted he hadn’t seen the Huskies play this season, he said he respects them deeply, understands they play a suffocating zone defense and looks forward to the challenge.

“We certainly have a lot of respect for them as a team,” said Smith “Our guys are fired up, our guys can’t wait to get out there and throw on that Aggie uniform again and represent us the right way.”

Back On The Map

Smith gave credit to his players and staff for their rapid growth, saying that the team basically started at ground zero when he came in.

Now that the Aggies already reached the top of the Mountain West and are headed to the Big Dance with their highest seed ever, Smith thinks it’s clear now, the Aggies are back where they belong.

“It just validates and leaves no doubt that Utah State is back on the national map,” said Smith.

 

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