Utah State Aggies: 28-6, 15-3 in the Mountain West
Head coach: Craig Smith (1st season)
Players to watch: Sam Merrill (21.2 PPG, 4.2 APG); Neemias Queta (11.9 PPG, 8.9 RPG)
Season recap: The Aggies have had a very steady season, consistently racking up wins against lesser opposition—but they've also struggled against the best teams on their schedule. They blew through the majority of the Mountain West conference, but faltered early against Nevada and Houston, the two ranked teams on their schedule. Utah State topped the then-No. 12 Wolf Pack in their second meeting though and finished the regular season on a 10-game winning streak en route to a conference tournament title.
The Aggies' offense runs through guard Sam Merrill, the Mountain West Player of the Year, who is capable of hitting 3-pointers, hitting 37.8 percent from deep, and is an elite driver to the basket. He is responsible for setting up teammates and is the key to Utah State’s success. Neemias Queta anchors the defense and is a formidable rim protector, earning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year honors with 2.4 blocks per game.
How they make a run: Merrill continues his season-long success and is able to score at will and get open shots for his teammates as the veteran team is able to impose its will on unprepared teams.
How they falter: The Aggies run into a team with the perimeter defenders to shut down Merrill and other players are not able to carry the offensive load on Utah State's way to an early exit.