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Utah State basketball notebook: Aggies hope third time is the charm at WAC tournament

Published: Tuesday, March 12 2013 8:05 p.m. MDT

There is an old adage in college basketball that says it’s hard to beat the same team three times in a season.

Utah State is hoping that wisdom is particularly true this year. A possible Aggies' run to a WAC tournament championship could very easily involve beating three teams that swept USU in the regular season, starting with UT Arlington in the first round Thursday night.

A win Thursday would likely match the Aggies up with top seed Louisiana Tech in the semifinals. Should USU make it to Saturday night, the second-seeded Denver Pioneers could be waiting on the other side.

Just don’t count Utah State head coach Stew Morrill into the group that buys into that wisdom.

“That statement is made a lot, but I’ve never made it. I don’t believe in that,” Morrill said. “If you beat them twice, you might be better than them.”

The Aggies have been on the other side of the equation many times in their years in the WAC, so playing the underdog role is new.

“There’s a lot of those sayings that are kind of fun to talk about, but I’m not sure how much validity they have,” Morrill said. “In this case I hope that one’s more right than I believe.”

USU DEPTH NOT A STRENGTH: Working against the Aggies making a run in the WAC tournament is a lack of depth. Winning any conference tournament is tough, but winning three games in three days with the injury issues Utah State has had is seemingly an impossible task.

However, Morrill and the Aggies are more concerned with getting past the Mavericks on Thursday night than worrying about juggling a potentially tired roster into the weekend.

“As much of a worrier as I am, what I’ve learned to do is try and worry about things that matter right now,” Morrill said. “That doesn’t matter right now. I guarantee you if we get to the second or third night, I will worry adequately about it.”

With Montana in 1991, Morrill won the Big Sky conference tournament with just a seven-man rotation.

“We were at home so that helped,” Morrill added. “It can be done. It’s just a little harder.”

BACK TO VEGAS: No team will have a home-court advantage this season as this is the third year the WAC will be holding its basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Next year however, will be a different story. The Aggies will return to Vegas as members of the Mountain West Conference, which recently announced that the postseason tournament will stay in Las Vegas until at least 2016.

Several coaches in the conference have already voiced their displeasure about the tournament being held at the Thomas & Mack Center, the home court of UNLV, and Morrill will add his name to that list when USU becomes a full member this summer.

“Neutral floor is the way it should be and certainly the way I favor,” Morrill said. “I’m sure I’ll have some complaints when we get to the Mountain West next year when tournament time comes around, but I guess that’s a ways away.”

Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.

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