NCAA Tournament Preview: Utah State Takes on Washington
Get to know the Huskies
Can the Aggies advance?
To get to know Utah State’s opponent, Washington, for the NCAA Tournament, we brought on our lead basketball writer Eli Boettger who is very familiar with the Huskies basketball program.
1. Behind an obvious 1-2 punch in Merrill and Queta, who is the Aggies’ third-best player, and what does USU need from that player to beat UW?
It’s almost always a different guy every night, but I’ll go with Diogo Brito. He’s almost always a factor coming off the Aggie bench and impacts the game in a variety of ways. Any added scoring and production from someone not named Merrill or Queta benefits Utah State and makes them that much more dangerous.
2. Washington also boasts a conference POY and DPOY — how do Nowell and Thybulle compare to Merrill and Queta?
Matisse Thybulle is arguably the best defender in the country, defending the opposing team’s best guards while contesting shots, sending attempts back, and stealing passes. He’s the type of player you have to always have knowledge of where he is on the floor. Jaylen Nowell is an elite scorer and shot-maker and can hit from all the three levels. These two combine for a dangerous duo on the Washington wings.
3. The regular season ended very differently for these two teams. Which squad will be the aggressor and get off to a faster start Friday night?
Utah State should be able to get off to a good start, but this game could get pretty muddy for both teams. Washington has struggled offensively of late and will rely heavily on its defense to stay within distance. Utah State enters the game with more momentum than Washington and could use that in the early going.
4. How would a win Friday impact Craig Smith’s standing among former Aggie coaches?
Craig Smith has already earned so much respect by the Aggie fanbase for what he has accomplished already in his first team in Logan. Regardless of how far Smith and Utah State advance in the NCAA Tournament, the foundation is there for this to be a very special and sustainable relationship between coach and program. Whether Smith can do it year after year is the big question, but year one has been more of a success than anyone could have realistically envisioned.
5. Call your shot: which team will lead at halftime, and who will advance to play in the round of 32?
I have Washington making a late push towards the end of the first half taking a lead into the break. However, I like Utah State to come out of the gates strong again to start the second half and hold off Washington in the closing possessions to advance to the round of 32.