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Can Utah State sneak into the big dance?

By Brayden Ramsay, KSL.com | Posted - Mar. 6, 2020 at 10:52 a.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Aggies have hopes to once again make the NCAA Tournament this season.

With guys like Neemias Queta, Sam Merrill and Diogo Brito their chances seemed high toward the beginning of the year. But injury and a few questionable losses have hindered the Aggies' chances throughout the season; but could they still squeak into the dance?

Here’s why the Aggies still have a shot, and what the team from Logan needs to do to get to the biggest stage in college basketball.

First, the bad news.

Utah State finished the regular season with a critical loss on the road to New Mexico and dropped their final game to the Lobos 66-64 last Saturday. The Lobos aren’t the only questionable loss the Aggies suffered this season. A 19-point loss to Air Force and 17-point loss to UNLV would also cut into the Aggies' chances of a tournament berth.

San Diego State, BYU and St. Mary’s topped Utah State this season, but these losses don’t look as bad to the committee because each of these teams are tournament teams, or at least ‘bubble’ tournament teams in 2020.

The NCAA Selection Committee also looks at a team's road record, and a 4-6 road count doesn’t bode well for the Aggies.

Now, for the good news.

The Aggies have two good wins against SEC foes on neutral floors. Wins against the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers should boost their chances to get into the NCAA Tournament. These two games were a part of a 4-1 neutral court showing during 2019-20.

The Aggies were also able to pick up good wins against conference opponents this season. A 15-point win over UNLV, alongside wins over Nevada and Boise State are the best victories the Aggies have had in the Mountain West. Each of these teams are toward the top of the conference rankings and should bode well in the Aggies' favor.

Utah State was able to weather the storm of Queta's injury for much of the season and came out virtually unscathed. And the Aggies have an 88th ranked strength of schedule in the country, according to teamrankings.com.

With a 23-8 overall regular-season record for Utah State, and because of the successes of San Diego State and others in the country, the Aggies currently are on the ‘bubble’ to get into the tournament.

Can the Aggies get in?

With a win against New Mexico Thursday, the Aggies' odds of making it into the dance improved from 27% to 42% chance, according to teamrankings.com.

Utah State still needs make a deep run in the Mountain West Conference Tournament to likely have a chance. Their odds of returning to the championship game are favorable given they'll meet up with No. 11-seeded Wyoming in the semifinals. The Aggies also have an improved 41.6% chance of winning the conference over top-seeded San Diego State, which would guarantee them a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

Next up for the Aggies is a matchup against a 9-23 Wyoming program that edged past Nevada Thursday in a 74-71 upset. The game is set to tipoff at 9:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

Brayden Ramsay

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