UTAH STATE AGGIES

Texas Tech Coach Chris Beard Has Deep Respect For Utah State Program

Mar 18, 2021, 12:23 AM
Texas Tech - Utah State - Chris Beard - Craig Smith...
Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard and Utah State coach Craig Smith square off in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. (Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – Utah State and Texas Tech have the makings of putting together one of the better matchups in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament. The 6-11 games in the NCAA Tournament always produce an upset or two each year.

Utah State would love to be that 11-seed to pull it off this year. It’s been 20 years since the Aggies last won an NCAA Tournament game. To get their first tourney win in two decades, they’ll have to get through a Texas Tech team led by head coach Chris Beard who is 8-2 in two previous NCAA Tournament appearances with the Red Raiders. Including a National Runner-Up finish in the last tournament two years ago.

Beard knows his Red Raiders are in for a battle against the Aggies, who feature center Neemias Queta. A player Beard feels is a future pro. But along with the current Aggies, Beard has a deep respect for the entire Utah State program.

When Beard was an assistant coach at North Texas in the late 1990s, the Mean Green were in the Big West. Beard remembers trips to Logan and the magic of The Spectrum.

Texas Tech/Utah State: Chris Beard remembers trips to The Spectrum

“It was always one of the trips I look forward to. That’s basketball country,” said Beard. “…They’ve got a big-time tradition and homecourt. They sell out games. First of all, it’s just a really good program. I think Craig [Smith] is the caretaker of the program right now. And he’s doing a great job.”

Like Beard, Smith cut his teeth into coaching at lower-profile schools and has now emerged as one of the coaching profession’s rising stars at programs that are becoming yearly fixtures in the Big Dance.

“A lot of respect for him. The way he kind of grew up in coaching. The different spots he contributed to as an assistant, certainly in South Dakota,” said Beard on Craig Smith. “We’ve got that connection of Matt Mooney. I had the pleasure of coaching Matt for a year, and he coached Matt for a couple of years. So Craig’s a friend in this business. I was really excited for him that they got into the NCAA Tournament, and I was not excited for myself that we have to face him. Because I have a lot of respect for him.”

Beard’s Red Raiders and Smith’s Aggies will showcase two of the better defenses in college basketball this season. Texas Tech is 28th nationally in scoring defense, while Utah State is 15th, allowing only 62.2 points per game.

“I think they have a defensive identity, no doubt about it. They have a rebounding identity, and Craig’s teams are always going to play the right way,” Beard said. “I don’t know their players. Marco [Anthony] from San Antonio, we watched him a lot on the circuit. A lot of their players I haven’t seen play much. But it is obvious to me that they have a culture and a togetherness. …If you’re going to beat Utah State in this tournament, you’re going to have to beat them. Because they won’t beat themselves. A lot of respect for Coach [Smith], the players, and really the program. Again, I’ve been there before and coached there; it’s a great fan base.”

(11) Utah State vs. (6) Texas Tech

2021 NCAA Tournament – South Regional First Round

Tip: 11:45 a.m. (MDT)

Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall (Bloomington, Indiana)

TV: TNT

Follow Mitch Harper and his NCAA Tournament 2021 coverage from Indianapolis with BYU and Utah State by following KSL Sports on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and the KSL Sports app.

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