Blog Entry

Utah State punches its ticket

Posted on: February 20, 2011 12:13 am
Edited on: February 20, 2011 12:15 am
Posted by MATT JONES

Saturday was an unbelievable day of college basketball. Watching Texas lose its chance to go to No. 1, St. John's knock off its fifth top 20 team at home and Arizona establish supremacy in the Pac 10 were all great moments for a college basketball fan. But in actuality when it comes to March Madness, only one game on Saturday truly will matter on Selection Sunday.

As close as you will ever see in the regular season of college basketball, Utah State's 75-65 victory over St. Mary's was a play-in game for the NCAA Tournament. Both teams came into the game with resumes that were decidedly mediocre to the selection committee, and both needed one more quality victory to ensure at least an at-large bid to the Big Dance. Both teams came into the game with recent crippling losses, for Utah State at Idaho and St. Mary's at San Diego, but a win would likely have put either over the hump, regardless of conference tournament finishes.

Utah State can now book its March travel arrangements. After falling down 39-29 early in the second half on the road, the Aggies stormed back on a 19-2 run to take control of the game and quiet the Moraga, California crowd. Tai Wesley, who was playing with a broken nose that he re-aggravated twice during the game, became downright beastly inside, scoring at will on the vanishing St. Mary's defense. While the Gaels struggled to find any offense, Utah State did what it has done all season, spreading production around the trio of Wesley, Brockeith Pane and Brady Jardine during its early second half run and sustaining it until the end for the victory.

The Aggies came into the game ranked and certainly one of the best 68 teams in America. But its non-conference resume was particularly weak and past years' failures by Utah State make even its biggest supporters weary about its standing for March. But the win on the road against the WCC power all but assures that Stew Morril's team will not only be in the Tournament, but likely with a seed from which it can do some damage.

As for St. Mary's, the at-large bid is likely now out the window. The loss on Wednesday to San Diego was obviously embarrassing. To blow an 11 point lead to a team that had only won three games the entire season over Division I competition was detrimental. But it likely was not devastating to the Gaels' case due to relative weakness of the bubble across America. But to then follow that performance up by watching another double-digit lead disappear at home against a potential quality resume-building win likely extinguishes the team's at-large hopes. In order for the school to make consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time in its history, it will need to win a conference tournament that will feature, among others, very talented Gonzaga and Portland teams. Only one will get a bid, making the WCC Tournament potentially the most competitive in college basketball.

But that type of competition will not be a worry for Utah State. It can now finish its season by winning the WAC and going to the conference tournament without the pressure of it being a must-win event. The Aggies had two chances to punch their ticket to March, and rather than wait for the crapshoot in Reno, they took care of business in the most important game in college basketball on Bracket Buster Saturday. Someone wake Wild Bill...he is headed for a "One Shining Moment" montage once again.
Category: NCAAB

Since: Jul 12, 2010
Posted on: February 21, 2011 11:55 am

Utah State punches its ticket

The WAC tournament is in Reno. The WCC tournament is in Vegas.

Since: Mar 4, 2008
Posted on: February 20, 2011 11:13 pm

Utah State punches its ticket

No team has ever received an at large bid with fewer then 3 RPI top 100 wins and Utah State now has exactly 1.

So I really don't get how they are now a must at large team based on 1 win.

Richmond should be in then because they beat Purdue which is 10x better win and they also play in a better conference.

Since: Jan 1, 2011
Posted on: February 20, 2011 10:08 pm

Utah State punches its ticket

So a win over a non tourney team is a ticket puncher???  Sorry Utah St needs to win out.....

Since: Oct 4, 2008
Posted on: February 20, 2011 8:03 pm

Utah State punches its ticket

Since: Feb 20, 2011
Posted on: February 20, 2011 7:39 pm

Utah State punches its ticket

Dear Mr. Matt Jones - 
The WAC tournament is in Las Vegas this year. Fact check please.

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