Utah State Ready For Washington In NCAA Tournament

Mar 21, 2019, 10:58 AM | Updated: 12:10 pm
Utah State Aggies guard Sam Merrill (5) goes to the hoop during the Mountain West Conference finals...
Utah State Aggies guard Sam Merrill (5) goes to the hoop during the Mountain West Conference finals against the San Diego State Aztecs at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 16, 2019. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After winning their first conference tournament championship since joining the Mountain West, the Utah State Aggies have their sights set on their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011.

The Aggies are the No. 8-seed in the Midwest Region and will face No. 9-seed Washington out of the Pac-12.

Utah State is 5-3 all-time against the Huskies. Their last meeting was in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006, when Washington was a No. 5-seed and the Aggies were the No. 12-seed.

Washington beat Utah State 75-61 in San Diego, California. Brandon Roy dropped 28 points to lead the Huskies, while Jaycee Carroll poured in 21 points for USU.

Their previous meeting before the 2006 clash was in 1986.

Washington Is Defensive Minded

The Huskies had a great regular season, finishing with a 26-8 overall record and a 15-3 mark in conference play. They won the Pac-12 regular season title, but failed to win the conference tournament when they beat Colorado in the quarterfinals before losing to Oregon in the semifinals.

They are coached by Mike Hopkins, who is in his second season. He has brought defensive intensity to the Huskies and has installed a stifling defense that he brought over from Syracuse, where he served as an assistant coach under Jim Boeheim since 1995.

Washington is led by the Pac-12 Player of the Year Jaylen Nowell, who averages 16.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. They also have the two-time Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in Matisse Thybulle. During the Pac-12 tournament, he passed Gary Payton for the All-Time leader in steals.

David Crisp and Noah Dickerson are potential threats for the Aggies with season averages of 12.5 and 12.2 respectively. Dickerson leads in the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game.

Offensive Minded Utah State

The Aggies averaged 79.2 points per game during the regular season, which was good for second in the Mountain West, behind Nevada’s 80.7 per game average.

The reigning conference Player of the Year Sam Merrill leads the team with 21.2 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game average.

Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year Neemias Queta will be crucial to Utah State’s success. He posted 11.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.

The game will come down to whether Utah State’s offensive or Washington’s defense will prevail.

Aggies head coach Craig Smith will join KSL’s Unrivaled on Thursday at 7:20 p.m. on KSL Newsradio.

Utah State and Washington will tip-off on Friday at 4:50 p.m. on TNT.

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