Utah State Aggies
Western Athletic Conference (27-7, 14-2)
Big Wins: 12/2 BYU (71-61), 2/20 Wichita State (68-58), 3/6 New Mexico State (81-63)
Bad Losses: 11/18 at Utah (67-68), 12/18 at Long Beach State (62-75), 1/4 at Louisiana Tech (60-82)
Last NCAA Appearance: 2009, First Round loss to Marquette
Coach: Stew Morrill (1-7 in 7 NCAA appearances)
Why They Can Surprise:
Last year’s fresh faces that were surrounded by questions and still made the NCAA Tournament are now a year older and wiser. Utah State always plays smart basketball. They rarely commit turnovers, they take smart shots and they hit the glass hard. As always, this is a Coach Stew Morrill team and the system is always bigger than any player. But it is the play of a suddenly experienced and consistent backcourt that makes the Aggies commit just 10.2 turnovers per game.
Jared Quayle is the leader of the group. Not only does the 6-1 senior dish out 4.2 assists per game and only turns the ball over 1.6 times, but he also averages 12.5 points and 6.3 rebounds. The backcourt is littered with players who shoot around 40 percent from beyond the arc and have impressive assist-to-turnover ratios. Tyler Newbold will start at the two guard spot and is always a threat to get hot from long range. Pooh Williams is inserted in the starting lineup because he can also attack the basket. Even Brian Green is shooting 50.0 percent from beyond the arc off the bench and averages 7.6 points per game. If there is a guard at Utah State who cannot shoot, they are way, way down the depth chart. But I’m pretty sure the practice squad is full of them too.
Why They Can Disappoint:
Utah State’s problem last year was the lack of three-pointers. Those who shot were certainly shooting well, but the team as a whole simply did not take many long balls. For a team that does not create a lot of turnovers or get a lot of easy buckets, being able to consistently and confidently hit a three-pointer could be just what is needed to spark the offense. That is not a problem anymore with Coach Morrill giving more players the green light from long range. The other concern is the absence of Gary Wilkinson who did a great job clogging the paint last season. Tai Wesley has taken his place as the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, but Wilkinson was a true center, while Wesley is an athletic four who can block shots and attack the basket.
Who To Watch:
That leaves Nate Bendall as the true post player on the team. At 6-9 and 245 pounds, Bendall can literally and figuratively fill the shoes of Wilkinson. Bendall has been inconsistent during his first year with the Aggies after spending some time at the junior college level. At times he scores 20 and grabs ten boards, but other nights he practically disappears. Bendall cannot disappear in March if Utah State hopes to make a little run.
Jared Quayle, Senior, Guard, 12.5 ppg, 4.2 apg, 6.3 rpg
Tyler Newbold, Junior, Guard, 8.0 ppg, 3.0 apg, 4.0 rpg
Pooh Williams, Junior, Guard, 8.8 ppg, 2.3 apg
Tai Wesley, Junior, Forward, 13.6 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.4 apg
Nate Bendall, Junior, Forward, 10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg
Brian Green, Junior, Guard, 7.6 ppg, 1.4 apg
Brady Jardine, Sophomore, Forward, 6.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.4 (84th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 59.5 (9, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.9 (9, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.3 (46, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.9 (85, 2)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 42.0 (3, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 76.6 (4, 1)
Rebound Margin: 5.6 (22, 1)
Assists Per Game: 16.9 (7, 1)
Turnovers Per Game: 10.2 (5, 1)
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