Three Storylines That Could Determine Utah State/Texas Tech NCAA Tournament Winner

Mar 19, 2021, 12:42 AM
Marco Anthony - Utah State vs. Colorado State - MWC Semifinals...
Marco Anthony #44, Brock Miller #22 and Justin Bean #34 of the Utah State Aggies celebrate their 62-50 victory over the Colorado State Rams after the Mountain West Conference basketball tournament semifinals at the Thomas & Mack Center on March 12, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

BLOOMINGTON, Indiana – All systems go for Utah State and Texas Tech in the first round of a historic and unprecedented 2021 NCAA Tournament. Both teams have quarantined and are ready for what should be an intriguing 6-11 matchup that could have a potential upset brewing.

The game will be played at Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana, the campus of Indiana. Only 500 people will be in attendance. The crowd will primarily consist of family members of the players and coaches.

Both Utah State and Texas Tech received at-large bids from the Selection Committee for this year’s tournament. This is Utah State’s 22nd appearance all-time in March Madness. For Texas Tech, this is their 18th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Head coach Chris Beard is 8-2 in NCAA Tournament games with the Red Raiders.

Utah State/Texas Tech Storylines

Since meeting in 2016 in a Thanksgiving tournament in Cancun, Mexico, this matchup is the first between the two schools. Tech won that game 75-71. The two programs have met four previous times, with the series tied at two games apiece.

#1 Neemias Queta on the offensive end

Utah State has one of the top big men in college basketball this season in AP Honorable Mention All-American Neemias Queta. Since the day Queta stepped foot on the Logan campus two years ago, everyone has known the 7-foot center to be an elite defender. The offensive end of the floor was where he was raw as a young freshman from Portugal. This season, Queta has made big leaps in his game, averaging 15.1 points per game, and is shooting 55.7 effective field goal percentage.

Against a smaller starting five from Texas Tech, could Queta have a big offensive performance in store? In back-to-back games against Boise State last month, he put up a pair of 30 piece games. If the Aggies want to get their first NCAA win in two decades, they’re going to need a memorable performance from Queta.

#2 “Sparkplug” Mac McClung in first NCAA Tournament

According to Aggies coach Craig Smith, Texas Tech has some similarities in their play style to San Diego State on the defensive end and offensive to that of Utah State. It’s what makes this game an intriguing first-round matchup. But the Red Raiders have a wildcard that the Aggies haven’t seen often in the Mountain West Conference. That’s Mac McClung.

Craig Smith calls McClung a “sparkplug,” and it’s for a good reason. McClung, a transfer from Georgetown, has been a huge boost to Tech as he leads the Red Raiders in scoring at 15.7 points per game. Can the physicality from the Aggies on defense contain McClung from popping off for a big game. Like many in the Aggie program, this is McClung’s first appearance in the Big Dance. How he responds to the big stage will be fascinating to watch.

#3 Utah State vs. Texas Tech on the glass & 50/50 balls

The Aggies are No. 2 nationally in rebound margin, outrebounding their opponents by 10.3 per game. Queta and dancing phenomenon Justin Bean can’t allow the smaller Tech starting lineup to get second chance opportunities or 50/50 balls. In a tightly contested ball game where it could go a variety of ways, that could make the difference in an outcome.

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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Three Storylines That Could Determine Utah State/Texas Tech NCAA Tournament Winner