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Utah State picked 5th in preseason poll among heavy coaching, roster changes

Justin Bean against Nevada, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 in Logan.

Justin Bean against Nevada, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021 in Logan. (Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal via AP, Pool)

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LOGAN — With the college basketball season right around the corner, the Mountain West Conference released its preseason poll Wednesday, and the Utah State Aggies were picked to finish fifth in the conference.

Despite an impressive third-straight appearance to the conference championship and finishing second just a season ago, the Aggies have a lot to prove with a new head coach and the addition of 10 newcomers to their roster.

In March, former head coach Craig Smith accepted a position with the University of Utah, ending an impressive three-year stint with Utah State. In his stead, the Aggies hired Ryan Odom, who spent five seasons with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

In five years with the Retrievers, Odom led the UMBC to a 97-60 record. He was also at the helm when UMBC made history and defeated No. 1 seeded Virginia in the NCAA Tournament — the first time a No. 16 seed had ever defeated the top seed.

The Aggies bring back seven players, including seniors Brock Miller and Justin Bean, junior Trevin Dorius, and underclassmen Syzmon Zapala, Steven Ashworth, Max Shulga and Matthew Wickizier.

Miller and Bean are perhaps the most important players returning to the program and provide veteran leadership and valuable offensive skill sets. Bean led the team last season in with 11.4 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Meanwhile, Miller is perhaps one of the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the conference and knocked down 197 3's over four seasons at a 34% shooting percentage.

Shulga and Ashworth may provide the most value as the sophomore guards who made the most appearances among the young talent and should play a critical part in the early rotations.

And while there is some familiar faces from last season's team, the Aggies have brought in a lot of new faces, including RJ Eytle-Rock and Brandon Horvath, who followed Odom from UMBC. Utah State also brought in Travis Wagstaff, Cade Potter, Landon Brenchley, Conner Gillis, Connor Odom, Norbert Thelissen, Zee Homada and former Utes guard Rylan Jones, who was a staple of the Utah program his freshman season where he made 45 appearances over a two-year period.

With a plethora of new faces, including a new head coach and more than a 50% roster turnover, the Aggies will have their work cut out for them as they look to continue their Mountain West Conference dominance and finish above their preseason ranking.

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