Three Keys If Utah State Hopes To Advance In NCAA Tournament

Mar 15, 2023, 4:31 PM | Updated: Mar 16, 2023, 11:20 am

SACRAMENTO, California – “If you’re fortunate enough to make the NCAA tournament, you’re gonna play a great team worthy of being in the NCAA tournament.” Wise words from Utah State head coach Ryan Odom as the Aggies prepare for their first tournament game under the second-year head coach.

Utah State (26-8, 13-5) received an at-large bid to the 2023 NCAA tournament. They will face the No. 23 Missouri Tigers (24-9, 11-7) in the Round of 64 on Thursday, March 16. Tip-off is scheduled for 11:40 a.m. (MT).

This was just the fourth time Utah State has received an at-large bid (2006, 2010, 2021).

RELATED: Similar To Utah State, Missouri Lacks Recent NCAA Tournament Success

This marks the 11th time USU has made the NCAA tournament since 2000. They are looking for their first tournament victory since 2001 when 12-seed Utah State needed overtime to beat five-seed Ohio State 77-68 in the first round.

Utah State holds a 6-24 record in the NCAA tournament. They look to end a nine-game losing streak.

Three Keys For A Utah State Win

Protect the basketball

Missouri finished the season eighth-best in the country, forcing 17.21 turnovers per game and a +5.9 assist/TO margin. USU committed 12.1 turnovers per game this season.

RELATED: Utah State’s Rylan Jones Fulfilling Captain Role Despite Trying Senior Season

“They really challenge you in a lot of different areas,” Odom said a day before the matchup. “The defensive intensity that they play with, the ability to turn you over is always concerning. When you play a team like that, they can turn your bad offense into baskets.”

D’Moi Hodge and his 2.6 steals per game lead a Missouri defensive attack that has forced 341 steals this season that the Tigers turn into 20.8 points each game. Nick Honor (1.5 spg), Kobe Brown (1.4 spg), and Sean East II (1.3 spg) each averaged more than a steal per game this season.

Run the offense

Utah State has had seven players lead the team in scoring for a single game. With that versatility comes both pros and cons.

RELATED: Utah State Basketball Relies On Trust Entering NCAA Tournament

Defenses struggle to take away any one particular player, leaving them vulnerable when Utah State is moving the ball wall. As a con, when the Aggies fall into extended stretches of offensive futility, they don’t have a textbook ‘go-to’ guy that can get a bucket. Sans that go-to creator, USU is forced to rely on ball movement, cutting, and communication to create scoring chances.

If Missouri can limit Utah State’s ball movement, forcing more of a one-on-one game, the advantage will shift significantly in the Tigers favor.

Attack the offensive glass

The Tigers are the 351st-best defensive-rebounding team in the country. Said another way, Missouri enters the tournament as the second-worst defensive rebounding team in the country.

USU averaged 8.56 offensive rebounds per game but Trevin Dorius, Taylor Funk, and Dan Akin could feast on the offensive glass in a big way. Dorius, in particular, has done a good job at taking advantage of positive size mismatches this season.

RELATED: Ryan Odom Brings Unique NCAA Tournament Experience In First Big Dance With Utah State

Mizzou is a guard-heavy team with only one player over 6’8 in the regular rotation. 6’10 Mohamed Diarra averages just 12 minutes per game.

Where to watch No. 10 Utah State vs. No. 7 Missouri

The Aggies and Missouri Tigers are scheduled for an 11:40 a.m. (MT) tip at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, CA on Thursday, March 16. This game will be broadcast on TNT.

RELATED: Utah State’s NCAA Tournament History As Aggies Prepare For Missouri

The winner of this game will face either the No. 2 Arizona Wildcats or the No. 15 Princeton Tigers on Saturday, March 18.

Every Utah State basketball game can be heard on the KSL Sports Zone with Scott Garrard on the call.

KSL Sports coverage of Utah State University Athletics can be found here. 

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Three Keys If Utah State Hopes To Advance In NCAA Tournament