LOGAN — In the past, ESPN Bracketbuster Weekend has meant a marquee matchup on national TV for Utah State as the Aggies looked to pin down an additional quality win for NCAA Tournament posturing. This year there will be no ESPN cameras, just Utah State (14-13) facing a former conference foe in UC Santa Barbra (14-8).
On the surface, an old Big West Conference mate does not seem like a tough matchup for the Aggies, but Utah State coach Stew Morrill thinks otherwise.
"Obviously we drew a very good team," said Morrill. "(UC Santa Barbra) would be a contender for a championship in our league. With our situation it's a challenging game."
The Gauchos have been to the NCAA Tournament two straight years and have an NBA talent in Orlando Johnson. The 6-foot-5 guard is 16th in the nation in scoring at just under 20 points a contest and poses matchup problems as he is capable of playing nearly every position. Morrill said Johnson would likely start at the three, giving guard Danny Berger the first crack at defending him, but as Johnson moves around everyone from power forward Kyisean Reed to point guard Brockeith Pane will get a chance to guard him.
On offense, the Aggies will also have their hands full as they face a disciplined zone defense, a scheme that has flummoxed them at times this season.
"It's a 1-2-2 matchup zone that causes a lot of problems," Morrill said. "Unless we are fortunate enough to get ahead early we will be seeing that 90 percent of the night."
Pane and Reed will both return to the starting lineup this weekend after coming off the bench against Montana Tech on Tuesday night. This is the fourth of five straight home games for Utah State. The Aggies will have nearly the entire week off next week before finishing their home schedule with senior night against Idaho on Friday.
Aggies on the air
UC Santa Barbara (14-8) vs. Utah State (14-13)
Saturday, 7 p.m. (MT)
TV: KMYU Radio: 97.5 FM