Predicting Utah State Basketball’s Non-Conference Record
Early docket features five KenPom Top 100 teams from last year
Can the Aggies succeed against a difficult non-conference schedule?
Utah State comes into this season with massive expectations after taking home a share of the Mountain West regular season title last year and winning the conference tournament. Returning MWC Player of the Year Sam Merrill and MWC Freshman of the Year Neemias Queta form the league’s top tandem, but the Aggies will have plenty of hurdles to clear before they get into Mountain West play.
Here’s a quick look at each of the Aggies’ non-conference opponents and a prediction for each game. For a deeper dive on Utah State’s biggest games of the season, including their biggest Mountain West games, check out this preview from earlier in the week.
11/5 Montana State (Logan, UT)
New head coach Danny Sprinkle comes to Bozeman in hopes of bringing his alma mater some glory. Look for senior guard Harald Frey to shine, but for the Bobcats to ultimately fall short here.
11/8 Weber State (Logan, UT)
The Wildcats have a potential Big Sky POY in Jerrick Harding. The senior guard scored 21.7 points per game last season, including 30 in an upset of BYU. This is the first real upset threat for the Aggies.
11/12 Denver (Logan, UT)
The Summit League’s worst team a year ago, the Pioneers struggled more than anyone else in the country to defend the long ball. Opponents shot 41.2% from downtown last year. Sam Merrill must be salivating.
11/15 North Carolina A&T (Logan, UT)
Despite winning 19 games a year ago, these Aggies scored just one victory over a team ranked 300th or better in the KenPom ratings. This is one of the safest games on the schedule for Craig Smith’s club.
11/18 Texas-San Antonio (Logan, UT)
The Roadrunners returns a pair of 20-point scorers in junior guards Jhivvan Jackson and Keaton Wallace. This is one of the most dangerous games on the early docket, as Utah State is at a decent risk of incurring a “bad” loss.
11/22 vs. LSU (Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic – Montego Bay, Jamaica)
Even after losing three players to the NBA, this squad returns some major pieces from the rotation of last year’s SEC champions. The Tigers also added five-star big man Trendon Watford. There will be plenty of controversy related to Will Wade, but that none of it will matter once the game tips off.
11/24 vs. North Texas (Jersey Mike’s Jamaica Classic – Montego Bay, Jamaica)
The Mean Green found themselves ranked as high as #36 in the NET rankings last year, but struggled after Ryan Woolridge (now at Gonzaga) went down. UNT needs to learn how to win without him – and fast.
11/29 @ Saint Mary’s (Moraga, CA)
A dream matchup for mid-major fans. The Gaels’ Jordan Ford (21.1 ppg) and Malik Fitts (15.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg) will go toe-to-toe with Merrill and Queta. The Aggies won 80-63 in Logan last year, so SMC will be out for revenge. This is Utah State’s only true non-conference road game. A win is crucial.
12/14 vs. BYU (Beehive Classic – Salt Lake City, UT)
New coach Mark Pope takes over for Dave Rose in Provo and he brought along former player and WAC Player of the Year Jake Toolson. But the Cougars are also bringing back All-WCC players Yoeli Childs (21.2 ppg, 9.7 rpg) and TJ Haws (17.8 ppg, 5.1 apg). A dangerous trip to the state capital.
12/18 vs. South Florida (Battleground 2K19 – Houston, TX)
The Bulls flew under the radar last year, but won 24 games and brought home a CBI tournament crown. Laquincy Rideau, the best defender in the AAC, headlines a returning cast that brings back more than 90% of its minutes from 2018-19, including AAC Freshman of the Year Alexis Yetna.
12/21 vs. Florida (Orange Bowl Basketball Classic – Sunrise, FL)
After adding prized grad transfer Kerry Blackshear (14.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), the Gators became national championship contenders overnight. This is undoubtedly the biggest – and most difficult – game on the Aggies’ non-conference schedule. A win could vault Utah State into a top-four seed.
Read on to see the final projected non-conference record for Utah State, as well as a breakdown of how these early games could affect the Aggies’ seeding in the NCAA Tournament.