by Daniel Olsen
With the first month of college basketball drawing to a close in Cache Valley, the Utah State Aggies capped off a special 5-0 start with a 10 point win over Oral Roberts that looked tough at times. While there is still plenty of basketball to be played, many national college hoops analysts see USU as an NCAA tournament team.
USU gets one vote in the AP Top 25
Brian Holland was the lone voter to put Utah State on his AP Top 25 ballot and with good reason. Out of 362 teams, just 46 undefeated programs remain. The sports director in Louisiana pointed out that the Aggies were the only perfect team other than conference foe San Diego State with a Top 150 strength of schedule per Ken Pomeroy. The Aggies might need to win out in conference play to crack the list, but they are well on their way to a ranking if they can win out in their non-conference slate.
Ken Pomeroy, one of the most renowned bracketologists, was in attendance at the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum to watch one of the top ranked teams on this side of the country. Joe Lunardi put the Aggies on the bubble as one of the next four teams out. That means if Selection Sunday was today, he would project USU to again be one of the top seeds in the NIT. There is still work to be done to earn that tournament bid.
Funk is more than a style of Music
Senior Taylor Funk has been a solid acquisition out of St. Joseph for the Aggies. He currently leads the team in several statistical categories. He averages a team best 18.3 assists per game and does so in an efficient manner. He shoots 48% from downtown while being tied with Steven Ashworth with 27 attempts. While much of his damage is done from the outside, he shoots a respectable clip from the free throw line (75%) and from the field (52%). He also rebounds more than anyone on the team (9.8 rpg). He is taking after the season Justin Bean had last year as half of his games so far have been double-double outings. As long as Funk can stay healthy and maintain this pace, the Aggies will be tough to beat. His number one sidekick, Steven Ashworth, is also perfectly capable of scoring when needed. Their combined three point percentage over Oral Roberts (82.4%) was better than the free throw shooting percentage of the entire Aggie team in this game (78.3%).
Metrics are favorable for this team
The Aggies rank first in offense among Mountain West teams (86.5 ppg), second in point differential (15.7) and third in field goal percentage (48.4%). The question remains whether they can defend as they allow the second most points per game. The way the offense runs smoothly allows USU to get open looks. This year they are hitting the shots at a much higher clip than last year.
If the Aggies can continue to gain the attention of national college basketball analysts, get production from their star players and raise their level of defense to match their offense, they could make some noise in March.
Featured image courtesy Garett Graf, USU Athletics