by Daniel Olsen
Thirteen days and three game cancellations have passed since the last time the Aggies took the hardwood. Some might be nervous about the rust, but instead they should confide in trust. USU coach Craig Smith has been here before, and hopefully the time off has helped the USU men’s basketball team to prepare for their most important series of the season. They also avoided a possible mark on their permanent record had they lost to Fresno State or Wyoming. Here are the postseason implications if the Aggies sweep, split or get swept in this series.
If the Aggies Sweep Boise State
Utah State is a lock for March Madness if they sweep Boise State. If they do lose one game to Nevada the following week they may have to win at least one game in the conference tournament to not sweat too much on Selection Sunday. However, if the Aggies can sweep two of the other top teams in the much improved Mountain West conference, that would qualify them as a tournament team. The Aggies swept San Diego State earlier in the season. While it’s true that Matt Mitchell was out for one of those games, the Aggies still overcame a valiant attack for a group of Aztecs that rallied around their injured teammate.
If the Aggies split
They still have a good shot, but it matters how they look doing it. It matters how hot a team is at this time of year. If USU has to drop a game, it would be better to drop the first one, then win the final three regular season games. Since they are already a game ahead of Boise, they could still maintain sole possession of first place in the conference standings. If the Aggies split Boise and somehow ends up tied in the standings, we will have to see what tiebreaker rules come into effect.
After head-to-head. the next tiebreaker is their records against the next best team in the conference. The Aggies swept the Aztecs who Boise plays next week. Both the Aggies and Broncos split with the next best team in Colorado State. If Boise sweeps San Diego State and is tied with the Aggies, this could get interesting. The Broncos were swept by Nevada. If USU gets swept by Nevada, then the next best team is currently Fresno. The Aggies had that game cancelled so the Aggies and Broncos would both have one win over the Bulldogs. Next is UNLV. The Broncos won both while USU dropped one in Las Vegas.
To summarize, if the Aggies split with Boise but get swept by Nevada and Boise sweeps San Diego State, they could win the tiebreaker for the top seed. The Aggies do have a game lead so a split would still secure them the top seed if they can at least split Nevada the following week. Even if San Diego State runs the table, the Aggies still have the tiebreaker over them for the head-to-head result.
If the Aggies split this series, they have to either sweep Nevada or get out of the first round to secure an at-large bid.
If the Aggies drop both games
This is where it gets complicated. While this isn’t a terrible loss, good teams find a way to beat other good teams. While Boise State is good, they did split with Colorado State and were swept by Nevada. Good teams, and even a Wolfpack team that is literally the middle-of-the-pack program in the conference right now, found a way to beat the Broncos.
The Broncos have the toughest remaining schedule. It’s time for them to prove if the preseason hype for them is valid. Are they one of the top teams or not? USU was picked to finish third in the preseason polls. They could very well end up in that spot if they get swept here and then lose a game to Nevada.
If the Aggies lose both games against the Broncos, there is a pressure to sweep Nevada. If they don’t, they will lose all momentum and need to win the Mountain West Conference tournament for the third year in a row to go dancing. If they get swept this week but sweep Nevada the following week, then another conference tournament championship appearance should be enough to secure the at-large bid.
Prediction: The Aggies will split Boise State and sweep Nevada en route to a conference tournament regular season championship. We will get to conference tournament predictions in a later article once the regular season is complete.
You can vote here on the Twitter poll of the day to let us know how you think the Aggies will fare this week in these two games against Boise State.
Featured image courtesy John Locher, Associated Press