Aggies Out for Revenge in Return Match against Broncos

Aggies Out for Revenge in Return Match against Broncos

Mountain West Basketball

Aggies Out for Revenge in Return Match against Broncos

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Boise State at Utah State: Game Preview, TV, Radio, Live Stream, Odds, More


Two of the MW’s best do battle on Saturday night


Contact/Follow @andrewdieckhoff & @MWCwire

GAME DETAILS

WHO: Boise State (16-8, 8-4 MWC) at Utah State (18-7, 7-5 MWC)

WHEN: Saturday, February 8 — 8:00 P.M. MT / 7:00 P.M. PT

WHERE: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan, UT

WATCH: CBS Sports Network; Get a free 7-day trial of FuboTV.

LISTEN: TuneIn USU, TuneIn BSU

ALL-TIME: The Aggies lead the series, 33-16.

ODDS: Utah State -7, per KenPom

GAME PREVIEW

Boise State will try to hold onto its second-place position in the Mountain West on Saturday, as they travel to Logan to square off with Utah State. The action at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum tips off at 8:00 P.M. Mountain. The game will televised on CBS Sports Network.

The first time these two met, the Broncos (16-8, 8-4 MW) pulled of an incredible comeback to earn an overtime victory over the Aggies.

But that was in Boise. Now, Utah State is ready to return the favor on their own turf.

The Aggies have made a habit of winning at home. Craig Smith’s team is 12-1 in Logan this year, and that single loss came against the still-undefeated San Diego State juggernaut.

If they can hold court once more, the Aggies (18-7, 7-5 MW) will erase the deficit between themselves and Boise State in the Mountain West standings. Utah State could end up taking over sole possession of that spot as early as Tuesday, with a midweek date with Colorado State next up on the docket after the Broncos.

Boise State, meanwhile, has won five straight, a streak beginning with that 19-point comeback over the Aggies on January 18. But this road game will be the most difficult they’ve had in some time.

Boise State is 3-6 in true road games this season, with those wins coming against Fresno State, Wyoming, and Pacific. Leon Rice has yet to register a meaningful win in hostile territory.

That win over Wyoming almost didn’t happen, either.

A close call in Laramie

Boise State nearly suffered an upset earlier this week when they started their two-game road trip in Laramie. The Cowboys led for most of that game, but a late surge helped the Broncos avoid taking the loss. A masterful performance off the bench from Alex Hobbs resulted in a career-high 24 points for the senior.

While the bench was busy going off—Max Rice, the coach’s son, also notched a career-high with 12 points—one of Boise State’s stars went quiet. Derrick Alston Jr. managed just two points for the entire game against Wyoming, and both of those came on free throws. The season-low output was likely just a small speedbump for Alston, who is averaging 19 points per game on the year.

Broncos senior Justinian Jessup will look to extend his Mountain West record for three-pointers made in a career. Jessup broke the record against Wyoming. On Saturday, he could become the first player in conference history to make 300 threes. The sharp-shooting guard currently sits at 298 for his career.

Aggies on the rise?

For Utah State, the Mountain West season has been a roller-coaster. The Aggies won their first two league games back in December, but lost three straight to start off the new year, including road losses to UNLV and Air Force.

They have won six of eight since that skid, with both losses coming on the road—and with Utah State having been in position to win both games. The Aggies led for large parts of those contests against Boise State and San Diego State but were unable to pull off a win on either occasion.

Utah State was back to their winning ways earlier this week, though, when they toppled UNLV in the first leg of their two-game homestand. Sophomore big man Neemias Queta had a season-high 21 points in the game, to go along with six rebounds and five assists. Joining him in the 20-point club was running mate Sam Merrill.

This kind of outburst from the duo was expected to be a nightly occurrence for Utah State, but the team has too often seen their stars fail to fall into step.

One of the factors keeping the Aggies afloat is the development of Justin Bean. The big man started the year as a Queta surrogate and made the most of his chance in the starting lineup, averaging a double-double with 12.6 points and 10.2 rebounds.

Tournament implications

As of Friday, Utah State stands at #52 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, while Boise State comes in at #91. A win for the Broncos would register as a Quadrant 1 victory, while the Aggies would only get a Quadrant 3 win for beating Boise State at Smith Spectrum.

Their wins over LSU and Florida aren’t as strong as they could be, and the losses to UNLV and Air Force are an albatross around Utah State’s neck.

In something of a catch-22, that road defeat against the Rebels is teetering on the verge of entering Quadrant 2. If UNLV does eventually rise in the rankings, it will lift an ugly Quadrant 3 loss off of the books, but it will also add another loss to an already meager record against Quadrant 1 and 2 opponents.

Boise State has turned their season around, to be sure, but a poor strength of schedule ranking and two Quadrant 3 losses paint a grim picture for the Broncos’ tournament dreams. A loss to Utah State would certainly help, but the true test will come in just over two weeks, when Boise State hosts San Diego State at ExtraMile Arena.

But even with both wins, the Broncos would still have just a mediocre resume overall.

The ship has likely sailed for either of these teams to get into the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid, so at this point, they are vying to secure a first-round bye in the Mountain West Tournament—and preferably on the opposite side of the bracket from the Aztecs.

That would drastically improve their chances of making the MWC Tournament final, and if they can get some help from an early upset of SDSU, an automatic bid could be in either team’s future.

Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.

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