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NCAA Tournament Profile: Get to know the Utah State Aggies

The Mountain West champs are going to be a tough out.

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at Utah State Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

The Aggies were likely a safe bet to make the NCAA Tournament before embarking on weekend play, but for safe measure Utah State knocked off San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game.

In doing so, Utah State turned a 17-17 season last year into a 28-6 turnaround this season.

The Aggies have won 10 straight are rolling right into the Big Dance.

Where is Utah State?

Just a quick jog north of Salt Lake City, right before you get to the Idaho state line. It’s in Utah, so of course there are mountain views. And as a bonus, Logan was rated the No. 1 city in the country when it comes to being a kid at Christmas time. Of course, that was in 2010. But hey, still a great place nonetheless.

Who is Utah State’s coach?

Sure, Craig Smith won the MWC Tournament title in his first season, but maybe his most memorable moment came on Saturday during the MWC finals. On his way to the halftime locker room, Smith was stopped by CBS’ Evan Washburn, and the microphones picked up Smith asking Washburn how he smelled. Can’t make that stuff up.

Smith is one of the most well-liked coaches in America. He enjoyed tremendous success at South Dakota, but couldn’t get the Coyotes over the hump in recent years because of a guy named Mike Daum.

But at a new location, Smith has the Aggies rolling. Oh, and he was named the league’s Coach of the Year, so he has that going for him, too.

Is there a player from Utah State to know about?

Sam Merrill can score at will. The 6-foot-5 junior guard from Bountiful, Utah, is averaging 21.2 points per game, and he’s scored at least 22 points in his last five games, including a 38-point showing against Colorado State on March 5. He rarely comes off the court, either, averaging 32.6 minutes per contest.

The rest of the roster

Neemias Queta is the Aggies’ only other scorer in double figures at 11.9 points per game. The 6-foot-11 freshman center from Portugal also hauls in 8.9 rebounds a game. Diogo Brito scores 8.3 points per game and is a 39 percent 3-point shooter.

Required Reading

The Salt Lake City Tribune’s story of the Aggies punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

Can they win?

Absolutely the Aggies can win. Utah State earned a matchup with Washington in the 8/9 game in the Midwest, and those games these days are virtual toss-ups. The combination of Merrill’s scoring and Queta’s defense inside should give the Aggies a solid chance to pick up one victory. A looming matchup with North Carolina would be a tall task even for the Mountain West’s best team, however.