Utah State is coming off a disappointing weekend. It included its two worst shooting-percentage games of the season (39.2 at Irvine, 37.9 at Nevada), being outrebounded for the fourth time this season (39-31 at Nevada) and a 1-1 record that left the Aggies clinging to a one-game lead for the Big West Eastern Division.
Boise State, however, did USU a favor Tuesday, beating Nevada 77-67 in Boise, leaving the Wolf Pack 11/2 games out at 12-9 overall and 9-4 in the conference.USU continues on the road Thursday at Idaho and Saturday at Boise State before ending the regular season at home. It's the first time since 1989 that the Ags have had a four-game road swing; they were 2-2 then.
Despite Saturday's loss at Nevada, the Aggies are getting some respect nationally as they look for their 20th win - the 14th time in USU history that has happened and the third time in the last four seasons.
Both the ESPN Sportszone and the Sporting News websites (which predict the NCAA Field of 64) have the Aggies are penciled into the tournament as the Big West champion. Blue Ribbon (ESPN) has them going to Oklahoma City as a No. 12 seed against a No. 5 Arkansas. That's a move up from the 13th seed Blue Ribbon had been predicting for the Big West champion.
Sportszone also says Utah State has joined a growing list of teams from typically one-bid conferences that merit serious consideration for at-large bids even if they fail to win their respective league tournaments. Says Sportzone, "The committee has a recent history of rewarding regular season champions in mid-major conferences."
TSN says USU won't get an at-large bid if it doesn't win the Big West tourney, but predicts USU as BWC champ and a No. 13 seed, somewhere.
3-POINT PLAY: Trying desperately to come back and win at Nevada Saturday (they got within seven with :30 left after being down 17, the season's biggest Aggie deficit), USU fed Justin Jones for threes. He took nine but made only three. At Irvine, he was 1-for-3 on threes, so he dropped from sixth to 11th in the NCAA in three-point percentage (.511), but he's still tops in the Big West . . . With last week's poor shooting, USU as a team dropped from a tie for No. 1 in the NCAA 3-point percentage, falling to third (43.1 percent) behind Northern Arizona (44.3) and Penn (43.2).
CAREERS: By Saturday, Jones will likely be tied for ninth with Dan Conway for career games started at USU at 88. . . . Marcus Saxon is 13th in USU history in career assists (241); 12th is Allen Gordon (251) . . . Coach Larry Eustachy lost the career coaches'-winning percentage lead he seized last Thursday. The Nevada win left Eustachy (64.3) second to Dutch Belnap (64.6) again.