While it’s fair to say that Utah State’s loss to Washington in the NCAA Tournament on March 22 came as a shock to Aggie fans, it’s only because the entire season came as a shock to Aggie fans and men’s basketball experts from around the country.
Under new head coach Craig Smith, the Aggies were earmarked for ninth place in the Mountain West in the media’s preseason poll. And yet, Utah State ended being rewarded with a No. 8 seed in the Big Dance after tying Nevada for the regular conference title and then winning the Mountain West tournament in Las Vegas.
Led by MW Player of the Year Sam Merrill and Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year Neemias Queta, the Aggies rebounded from a 1-2 start in conference play to win 17 of its last 18 games prior to a 78-61 loss to the Huskies at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.
The Aggies, who didn’t lose back-to-back games all season on their way to their first trip to the NCAA tourney in eight years, ended up with a 28-7 record and helped re-ignite a passion for Aggie hoops amongst its fan base.
“It was a historic season really from start to finish,” Smith says. “To win the regular season title and then validate it with the postseason tournament was fantastic—the first ever in Utah State history in terms of winning the Mountain West championship. But it’s just the start of where we want to go.”