LOGAN — Playing in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT) was not the goal Utah State had before the season started, but it's a reward that did not look possible not too long ago. The Aggies scrapped together a winning streak to finish the season over .500, thus becoming eligible to play in the postseason tournament.
"The guys are excited to still be playing," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said.
"We didn't think we would be able to play in the postseason without winning the conference tournament a few weeks ago."
The Aggies will face Cal-State Bakersfield (16-14) in the Spectrum tonight during first-round play. The Roadrunners are only in their fourth year of full Division I status and had never won more than nine games in a season.
Morrill compares them favorably to the Louisiana Tech team that knocked the Aggies out of the WAC Tournament.
Like Louisiana Tech, Cal-State also has a new head coach, with former Ole Miss and Georgia State head man Rod Barnes taking over for Bakersfield this season. And, also like La. Tech, the Roadrunners play an aggressive trapping defense that tries to create turnovers.
Working in the Aggies' favor is getting to play at home. After two weeks of travel from San Jose to Hawaii and then to Las Vegas for the WAC Tournament, Morrill said he and the team are glad to be at home again.
"It's good for the team," Morrill said. "I hope the fans show up with the students out on spring break."
Another positive for the team is getting the young players a few extra practices and games before the season is over.
"It's really positive for the young guys," Morrill said. "They get to be exposed to playing in the postseason. And the seniors get to play some more basketball."
The CIT determines matchups for each round based on geography, so should the Aggies win, their next opponent and location will not be immediately known.
Aggies on the air
CSU Bakersfield (16-14)
vs. Utah State (17-15)
Today, 7 p.m. (MDT)
Radio: FM-97.5 TV: None
CIT first round
Robert Morris 67, Indiana St. 60
Mercer 68, Tennessee State 60
Old Dominion 68, C. Carolina 66
Georgia St. 74, Tenn. Tech 43
Toledo 76, McNeese State 63
Weber State 72, Utah Valley 69
Manhattan at Albany (NY), 5 p.m.
Yale at Fairfield, 5 p.m.
Bowling Green at Oakland, 5 p.m.
Buffalo at American, 5:30
North Dakota at Drake, 6 p.m.
Rice at La.-Lafayette, 6 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara at Idaho, 7 p.m.
CS Bakersfield at Utah St., 8 p.m.
CS Fullerton at Loyola Mar., 8 p.m.
Kent State at SC-Upstate, 5 p.m.