Utah State Bubble Watch: Will NCAA Bid Thieves Keep Aggies From Dancing?

Mar 13, 2021, 11:32 PM
Utah State - Craig Smith...
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 12: Head coach Craig Smith of the Utah State Aggies watches the action from the sideline against the Colorado State Rams during the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center on March 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Utah State won 62-50. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah State bubble watch is in full effect. Will the Aggies land an at-large bid in the 2021 NCAA Tournament? That’s the question Utah State fans are asking after Craig Smith’s squad came up short in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game against San Diego State.

The record is solid at 20-8 and a pair of wins over San Diego State; the Aggies have some attractive components to their NCAA Tournament resume. But two losses against Quadrant 3 teams from the NET rankings and a strength of schedule at 121 leave Craig Smith’s Aggies squarely on the bubble heading into Selection Sunday.

Utah State Bubble Watch

Losing to the Aztecs in the MWC Title took away the Aggies guaranteed opportunity in the field of 68, and matters got worse for Utah State when a pair of bid thieves won their conference tournaments on Saturday. According to ESPN’s BPI, Georgetown from the Big East had a 0.5 percent chance of winning the Big East Tournament. The Hoyas defied the odds and won four consecutive games to secure the auto-bid from the Big East.

Then in the nightcap on Saturday, Oregon State, the Pac-12’s preseason last-place team, upset nationally-ranked Colorado to punch their Indianapolis ticket. The immediate reaction from the national talking heads in the college basketball world is that these two bid thieves from power conferences could greatly impact teams like Utah State and others outside the power leagues.

After Oregon State’s upset win, ESPN’s Bracketologist Joe Lunardi released his latest bracket, and Utah State still cracks into the field of 68 as the “last team in.” Lunardi has the Aggies edging out Wichita State, Saint Louis, Colorado State, and Ole Miss for spot number 68 in the field.

“I’m so proud of our guys. We had a very good tournament. We over-extended some of our guys, no question, with some of the minutes. We really went with our veteran guys, we have a young team. We went with the guys who have been there and done that. I’m proud of them,” said Utah State coach Craig Smith after Saturday’s loss to SDSU. “We have such a great group of young men. We’re very connected, very together. It’s tough to be in that locker room right now. They’re passionate, they want to represent Utah State in a first-class fashion in every way, shape or form.”

Will the Aggies make the 2021 NCAA Tournament?

The good news for Utah State is that Sunday’s five-game schedule shouldn’t have much bearing on the Aggies case for an NCAA Tournament bid. All five of the remaining conference tournament title games feature teams that are either comfortably in the tournament or playing in one-bid leagues.

There’s also the possibility that if Utah State ends up outside of the bracket as a “First Four Out,” they could be a COVID replacement. Crazier things have happened in this wild and unprecedented year, but for now, Utah State will hope they hear their name called on Selection Sunday.

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