by Daniel Olsen
The slump is over as the Utah State Aggies finished off the first month of 2022 with a pair of impressive wins. They also won the Myrtle Beach Invite in the non-conference slate to boost their resume early in the season. After beating a perennial juggernaut in San Diego State and solid Nevada team, the Aggies headed into February with a need to keep on winning to improve their overall resume. They struggled with a four game losing streak, but snapped it with a big win over New Mexico. It’s time to look at three different ways that they can keep playing deep into March.
Make the NIT
This might not sound glamorous, but after three straight years of qualifying for the postseason, it’s ok to sometimes have a rebuilding year especially in the first season as a new head coach.
The NIT is the best tournament other than the Big Dance in March. Back when the Aggies were in one-bid leagues like the WAC, this tournament was more of an honor to their great teams that couldn’t quite get it done in the conference tournament. In a year where as many as four Mountain West schools could get into the tournament, it might seem disappointing to not seize that opportunity.
However, if the Aggies can win at least eight of their final ten games, they should be in a good position to make the NIT with at least 20 wins in the Mountain West. It will be interesting to see where they are seeded in the Mountain West Tournament. Only the top five seeds get a bye on Wednesday. There isn’t much room for error if they want to avoid needing to win four games in as many nights. If the Aggies are trending around that five seed line, they should be a lock for the NIT.
Win the Mountain West
The Aggies have a history recently of saving their best basketball for the conference tournament. They have appeared in each of the last three championship games, while facing San Diego State each year. They won the first two, but the Aztecs were the last team standing last year.
This year it will be a little tougher because of seeding. The Aggies currently sit at seventh in the Mountain West. They are only 1.5 games behind Fresno State. Either way, it will be very difficult to win four games in four days. Only the top five regular season teams in the Mountain West get a bye. The teams seeded 6-11 have a play-in to get to the quarterfinals on Thursday. The Aggies got all the way to the semifinals in 2018 before losing.
It will be interesting to see how far this team can go. The Aggies are a good team when healthy. The Mountain West is a tough conference this year and has caught up with the once dominant Aggies.
Win out until the Championship game
The at-large chances for the Aggies are hanging by a thread and about to fall into oblivion. Even if they do win out and barely lose in Mountain West Championship, they will need a ton of help. They would basically need every bubble team to lose out and go home early in their respective conference tournaments.
Even national media recognizes that USU is receiving a decent amount of national respect. Expect USU to make an attempt at stealing a bid and make a strong showing in the NIT if they are unable to do so.
Featured image courtesy USU Athletics