Amid Excitement Aggies Focused On Washington, Thybulle
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Utah State Aggies are ready for the national spotlight. The team arrived in Columbus, Ohio, had practice and met with the media. For the media outside of Utah, it was their first chance to get to know the team that shocked the college basketball scene in the Intermountain West.
The Aggies’ story has been well documented in Utah. Going into the season, they were picked to finish ninth in the Mountain West Conference preseason polls. Despite the long odds, Utah State put together a magical season that included sharing the regular season conference title and then winning the conference title in Las Vegas.
Junior forward Sam Merrill, who was named the Mountain West Conference’s Player of the Year, told the media that although there is a lot of excitement on the team about being in the Big Dance, the Aggies are focused on taking care of business.
“I think our coaching staff and us as a team have done a good job this week of not trying to worry about the outside stuff as far as the media and all the excitement around it, but trying to focus on Washington and our game coming up and our scouting reports and prep. And practices have been the same that they’ve been all year,” said Merrill.
Prepping For Washington
One major focus for the Aggies is preparing for Washington’s zone defense. All season, the Huskies gave their Pac-12 opponents fits with a stifling defense that forced turnovers and kept the ball of the basket. The Huskies’ success on defense begins and ends with guard Matisse Thybulle, the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
In studying film on the Huskies, Utah State head coach Craig Smith likened Thybulle to a former NFL great.
Logan ✈️ Columbus
— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) March 19, 2019
“He’s almost like Deion Sanders in football,” said Smith. “When Deion Sanders played, it was like he eliminated whatever side of the field. He’s so instinctive, so quick twitch, so long and his hands are just so fast, right?”
“And for a guy to average playing a zone over three steals a game with two blocked shots a game is incredible,” Smith continued. “And he does it while staying disciplined. He’s not just running all over the place gambling and out of position. So he dominates the game in such a different way that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it from that respect.”
The Aggies’ NCAA Tournament first round matchup against Washington will tip off Friday at 4:50 p.m. and be broadcast on TNT.
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