Utah State vs. Montana State: Get To Know The Bobcats
The Aggies open the season against the Bobcats of the Big Sky
Who are the Montana State Bobcats?
Utah State opens up its basketball season on the road this Tuesday against Montana State out of the Big Sky. To get to know the preseason sixth team rated team we chatted with Paul Schwedelson of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle
- Who are the key players that Utah State needs to pay attention to?
Montana State’s top two players are senior guard/wing Tyler Hall and junior guard Harald Frey. The two combined to average 30.6 points last year while no one else on the team averaged in double digits. Without any other dangerous scoring threats, opponents honed in on Hall and Frey last year and the season sputtered down the stretch as MSU lost 13 of its last 15.
While it’s a new year and others could emerge, Hall and Frey remain the keys. Hall, though, suffered a sprained left ankle in an exhibition against Montana Western on Tuesday and his status for the opener against Utah State is to be determined. Frey, meanwhile, has moved from point guard to more of a combo guard role off the ball. He scored 20 and went 6 for 8 from behind the arc in that exhibition, proving why head coach Brian Fish wanted to put him in position to be more aggressive as a scorer.
- What are the expectations of East Carolina transfer Usman Haruna?
This is a tough question to answer since Haruna didn’t transfer to MSU until mid-August and didn’t find out he’d be immediately eligible until mid-September. At 6-foot-11 and 235 pounds, he provides the Bobcats with size at center, which they lacked a year ago. However, Haruna averaged just one point and 2.3 rebounds in 8.7 minutes per game as a junior at ECU.
Even if Haruna doesn’t score much, he could provide a boost on defense and in rebounding simply because of his stature. Expecting significant contributions early in the season may be asking a lot but as he grows more comfortable with MSU, his role could increase.
- Does this team go as far as Tyler Hall takes them? Last year, Montana State struggled when he was hindered by that ankle injury?
Almost certainly, yes. There are scenarios in which teammates, notably Frey and Sheridan College transfer Ladan Ricketts, could step up to fill a scoring void, but for the Bobcats to reach their full potential and accomplish their goal of making noise in the Big Sky, Hall has to perform.
Hall averaged 17.5 points as a junior, but coming off his 23 points per game as a sophomore, it was a bit of a letdown. He battled a sprained right ankle throughout the non-conference schedule. Then in conference play, he was hampered by the flu for a period of time and overall, just didn’t quite seem himself throughout the season. When Hall scored 18 or more points, MSU was 11-4. When he scored 17 or less, the Bobcats were 2-14.
- What style of play should the Aggies expect in this game?
Offensively, the Bobcats want to play fast. They ranked 94th in the country in adjusted tempo last year, according to Kenpom.com. Defensively, MSU will likely mix schemes between man to man and a 2-3 zone. The zone could also morph from a traditional 2-3 into more of a matchup zone. Either way, the Bobcats want to apply ball pressure and limit opponents from easy opportunities.
- How do you see this game playing out?
If Hall is unavailable, this will be a tough game for MSU. While other plays could contribute, the Bobcats are built to rely on him not only to score consistently, but also in critical moments to lift the group. He’s far and away the go-to player and he’ll be missed if he can’t play. Considering that Utah State won by eight a year ago with Hall and Frey scoring 15 each and that half of the Bobcats’ roster is new this season, the edge on paper likely goes to the Aggies.