by Daniel Olsen
College basketball is full of ups and downs with one goal: getting to the NCAA tournament. With the Aggies on the outside looking in (the very first team out according to Joe Lunardi), there is work to be done in the conference tournament. There are other teams that could help the Aggies with wins. Virginia and South Carolina could certainly help them get rid of some bubble teams with wins today. If the Mountain West goes chalk, it also helps the conference get more bids which also helps. However, none of that matters if the Aggies lose today to UNLV. It’s time to look at the three keys to victory for the Aggies.
• Block out the outside noise
There is plenty of talk about the Aggies and their resume as it pertains to the NCAA tournament. The Aggies shouldn’t worry about any of it. They just need to do what helps them stay in the zone. This is what has helped them in past conference tournaments. March Madness is a difference time. They better be calm and weather the storm when other lower ranked teams in the conference start coming for them. The UNLV Rebels could give them a scare if they aren’t ready. The Thomas and Mack Center may be the home for the Rebels, but the Aggies need to act like it’s their house. That’s where they have won the last two conference tournaments after all.
• Double-Double Trouble
Anyone who has watched the double-double kings knows that their combination of scoring and rebounding is vital for the way the Aggies play. They don’t always shoot well as a team but they make up for it by being one of the best rebounding teams in the NCAA. Justin Bean and Neemias Queta have both combined for 10 double-doubles in the past six games.
In the win this season against UNLV, Bean and Queta both finished one rebound shy of a double-double. They did get more scoring help from their teammates in that win. In the loss just a few days prior, Queta struggled to score and Bean struggled to rebound. It showed up on the scoreboard as the Aggies lost 59-56. The game plan may be to take these guys out of the ball game but if they can crash the boards then that will get things going for the Aggies.
In the loss, the Aggies out-rebounded the Rebels by six. In the win, they won the battle of the boards by 12. It’s the extra possessions that give the Aggies a leg up on their opponents.
• The Health Factor
The Aggies have had two main guys with injuries in Rollie Worster and Brock Miller. Worster returned at the end of the regular season but Miller did not play the final two games. Miller has been battling back pain and Worster has dealt with a lower leg injury.
In the loss to UNLV, these two combined for just 16 points. In the win, they combined for 34 points. It will be absolutely critical to have at least one if not both of these guys available. The Aggies have done a great job recruiting and have the depth to still win. However, when playing with house money in Vegas, it’s important to have all one’s chips. The Rebels after all are used to playing in Vegas and beating the Aggies would hit the Jackpot for them.
Prediction: USU 80 UNLV 73
The Aggies should win this game if they do what makes them a good team. Focusing on these three keys should help. This will be a game of runs. The Aggies will lead by ten and trail by ten. Someone needs to step up for the Aggies. Last year it was Sam Merrill. This year I predict it will be Queta. He will have a monster 20 point double-double game and impress any NBA scout that is paying attention.
Featured image courtesy Las Vegas Sun