Sam Merrill Recounts ‘Emotional Meeting’ Where USU Discussed NCAA Tourney Cancellation

Mar 14, 2020, 2:59 PM | Updated: 7:58 pm

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State star guard Sam Merrill didn’t get to experience his second NCAA Tournament appearance after the big dance was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns also known as COVID-19.

Like many other seniors around the world of college basketball, Merrill’s career came to and abrupt end.

But, Merrill ended his career at Utah State the best way that he possibly could when he hit the game-winning three-pointer with 2.6 seconds left to help the Aggies defeat No. 5 San Diego State to win their second straight Mountain West Tournament Championship.

When Merrill found out about the NCAA Tournament being canceled, Merrill was on his way to practice.

“I was on my way to practice,” Merrill said. “We were at the point where we were expecting it (tournament cancellation) at some point but just didn’t know when. Coach (Craig Smith) just texted us and said he was going to modify practice under the assumption that this probably was going to happen. I was on my way up to practice when a buddy sent me a text that it was cancelled.”

The Meeting

When the team showed up for practice, the tournament was already canceled. The Aggies held a meeting that was led by head coach Craig Smith.

“It was a very emotional meeting. We met on the Spectrum floor,” stated Merrill. “Coach Smith talked to us for a few minutes. He mentioned how proud he was of us and how sad he was for all of us.”

It was difficult for Merrill and his teammates to accept that they would not be participating in the NCAA Tournament. Even though they expected it, it was still difficult to accept.

“It was a tough moment. To hear that we were going to play without fans, to me it seemed like it would be better to just cancel it,” said Merrill.

It was an up and down season for the Aggies with a great non-conference record before struggling to start conference play. The team turned things around at the most important time. They overcame that when they had a big target on their back in the preseason when they were unanimously picked to win the conference title.

“We started with very high expectations and we had high expectations as a team,” Merrill mentioned. “We got off to a good start but it felt different. Part of that was not having Nemi (Neemias Queta) and his injuries. A couple of us got hurt in the preseason so that was tough. It seemed like we needed to be knocked down to come back up. From that moment, we fixed ourselves, looked in the mirror and did what needed to be done and ended it in the most perfect way possible.”

Additional Year Of Eligibility?

The NCAA announced on Friday that seniors who are participating in spring sports will receive an additional year of eligibility due to the cancellation of all spring sports until further notice.

The committee is also expected to make a decision on the seniors in winter sports, primarily in basketball and gymnastics whether or not to grant an additional season.

If Merrill was presented with an opportunity to play one more season at Utah State, he would not return.

“I am going to be 24-years old in a couple of months and I will be graduating,” Merrill said. “I feel like I have given everything that I have had to Utah State. I feel like it is time to move on.”

The second all-time career scoring leader at Utah State is sad about how the season ended but is also happy that the last time he would be on the floor wearing a Utah State uniform that he made one of the biggest shots in school history.

“Obviously, I wish there was more to it and more opportunities but in hindsight knowing what we know now, it’s a perfect way to go out,” Merrill said. “To be one of the best teams in the country and win a conference championship and be able to celebrate together.”

Coronavirus Resources

Have you or a family member been affected by coronavirus issues in Utah? KSL TV wants to hear from you. Contact KSL by emailing social@ksl.com.

What is COVID-19? Here’s What You Need To Know To Stay Healthy

What We Know And Don’t Know About The Coronavirus

Four Common Coronavirus Questions Answered

The latest coronavirus stories from KSL TV can be found here.

Your Life Your Health: How can parents prepare their home, children against coronavirus?

How Do I Prevent It?

The CDC has some simple recommendations, most of which are the same for preventing other respiratory illnesses or the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with people who may be sick
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Always wash your hands with soap and water if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

The CDC does not recommend wearing a facemask respirator to protect yourself from coronavirus unless a healthcare professional recommends it.

  • Utah State Aggies Scoreboard

  • Utah State Aggies Team Leaders

  • Utah State Aggies Standings

Utah State Aggies

Utah State Aggies Football Andre Seldon passes away...

Chandler Holt

Utah State Mourns Loss Of Football Student-Athlete Andre Seldon Jr.

Utah State Football honored newly-transferred cornerback Andre Seldon who passed away in a tragic accident on Saturday.

9 hours ago


Amy Donaldson

Former Utah State Administrator Jerry Bovee Disputes School’s Accusations, Recounts Firing

When the pain of being fired from a job that was more of an identity than a paycheck feels unbearable, Jerry Bovee summons the reason he ever started chasing his dream of being a college athletic director.

14 hours ago


Chandler Holt

Blake Anderson’s Representation Releases Part Of Response To Utah State University

Former Utah State football head coach Blake Anderson's legal team released parts of his 70-page response to Utah State University.

2 days ago

Blake Anderson, Utah State, Administrative Leave...

KSL Sports

Utah State Terminates Football Coach Blake Anderson

Utah State announced they are moving forward with the termination of head football coach Blake Anderson after notifying him of their intent to do so early this month. 

3 days ago


KSL Sports

60 in 60: #32 Utah State’s Robert Briggs (Running Back)

The countdown is on for Hans & Scotty’s 60 in 60 for the 2024 college football season. Coming in at No. 37 is Utah State RB Robert Briggs.

4 days ago


Brian Preece

Jerrod Calhoun To Lead Utah State Basketball On European Tour

First-year head coach Jerrod Calhoun and the Aggies will play teams from across Europe on a tour that spans August 9-19.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles


KSL Sports

Utah Hockey Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Want to get the latest info on Utah's newest sports franchise? Sign up for the Utah Hockey newsletter!


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.


KSL Digital Sales

Notable Moments From The Utah Jazz Season… So Far

At the beginning of the season, the Utah Jazz were second to last. Now they rank in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference.

Sam Merrill Recounts ‘Emotional Meeting’ Where USU Discussed NCAA Tourney Cancellation