by Max Westerman |
Show me a Scotsman,
Who doesn’t love the thistle.
Show me an Englishman,
Who doesn’t love the rose.
Show me a true-blooded
Aggie from Utah,
Who doesn’t love the spot . . .
Where the sagebrush grows!
Who doesn’t love a college basketball team with cheers like these? Memories of the Spectrum rattling the opponents psyche through the years highlight the great spirit and fandom that surrounds USU Basketball.
With everything that has changed during the pandemic in the sports world, it’s easy to forget how well things were going for the Aggies. At 26-8, USU finished second in the Mountain West Conference to Kawhi Leonard’s alma mater San Diego State. They were 12-6 within the conference and held a nearly perfect 15-1 at the Spectrum. The Aggies played their way to the Mountain West Conference championship for the second year in a row. Down 27-11 with three minutes left in the first, the Aggies fought their way back, cementing the upset with a game-winning three from Senior Sam Merrill. USU handed SDSU only their second loss of the season and became the third team in Mountain West history to win back-to-back Conference Championships. Will this success carry over into the 2020 season?
USU will look to their size inside to carry their inexperienced backcourt. Neemias Queta is one of three 7-footers on the team and is coming off a year where he averaged 13 points and 7.8 rebounds. Justin Bean had a breakout season averaging a double-double and will be a big help under the rim. This team will have ample opportunity for second chance points and should be able to hold their own in the paint as long as the guards can feed them in the post.
The guard play of the 2019-2020 season was orchestrated mainly by Sam Merrill, Abel Porter, and Diogo Brito. Those three put up a combined 33.8 points per game last year and they have all moved on as graduating seniors. That scoringproduction and ball-handling will be sorely missed. Possible remedies include Brock Miller, Virginia transfer Marco Anthony, Sean Bairstow, and Zahar Vedischev.
Brock Miller can shoot the three and the Aggies will look to him to spread the floor and knock down shots from the perimeter. Marco Anthony won the National Championship with UVA in 2019 and will bring some needed experience at the guard position. Sean Bairstow showed signs of potential last year in his Freshman season but only played 11 minutes per contest. Incoming Russian freshmen Zahar Vedischev might come out of nowhere and become the primary ball handler on this team. He played for the Russian Under-19 national team and can hit from anywhere in the gym. He pulls up with confidence and can drive to the bucket with his crossover. The play at the guard position will make or break the Aggies’ season despite their promising big men.
Rest assured Aggie faithful. Craig Smith will get the most out of this team. He is now a combined 54-15 in his first two seasons with USU and has proven he can highlight each players’ strength and set his team up for success.
Our first taste of conference play for Aggie basketball will be on Tuesday, December 29th on the road against Air Force. The team will play each conference opponent two times on their mission for a third straight Mountain West Conference Title. In the 2020-2021 season, we may not get to experience the Spectrum jam-packed with fans shouting about Scotsmen, but Aggie basketball is on the horizon.
Featured image courtesy Bleacher Report