Utah State (27-7)
HOW THEY GOT IN: At-large bid
MATCHUP BREAKDOWN: Utah State squeaked into the field and has its second consecutive meeting against a team of Aggies. Utah State lost to New Mexico State in the WAC tournament title game and now get Texas A&M, which is 23-9 with quality wins over Clemson, Missouri, Baylor and Texas. Utah State's Pooh Williams will be asked to stop A&M senior Donald Sloan, who averages 18.2 points. A&M has excellent guard play and has the athletic advantage over Utah State, but the WAC's Aggies will counter with one of the best shooting teams in the country.
GO-TO GUYS: Utah State is more about scheme and balance than one-on-one athletes. The Aggies can work any part of the court because forwards Tai Wesley and Nate Bendall, as all Utah State post players tend to be, are creative and savvy passers. First-team All-WAC point guard Jared Quayle is an underappreciated gem nationally; he averaged 11.9 points, 4.3 assists and a stunning 6.2 rebounds in the regular season. Wesley was the team's leading scorer in the regular season, averaging 13.7 points, but all the starters are capable, averaging at least 8.3 points in the regular season. Brian Green comes off the bench to hit more than 50 percent of his 3-pointers.
"This team is probably one where we have to have a lot of guys do their jobs," coach Stew Morrill said. "Those teams are fun to me. You have to have balance and a lot of guys contribute. It is unique. You don't have it that often and usually when you do your team is not that good. This team has been pretty good."
THEY'LL KEEP WINNING IF: The Aggies can't afford to get flustered or thrown off their game when they face more athletic teams. This is a team that gets what it wants by being ultra-efficient on offense, not giving away possessions while taking and making good shots. Utah State committed single-digit turnovers in the final six games of the regular season. It will be up to point guard Jared Quayle to keep Utah State at a favorable slower pace, minimize mistakes and limit possessions. Remember, the Aggies nearly pulled off a first-round shocker last season when they held athletic, guard-oriented Marquette to only 47 shot attempts and 36.2 percent shooting in a 58-57 loss.
STRENGTHS: Utah State is a difficult scout, especially for non-conference foes, because of the intricacies of Stew Morrill's motion offense. "They have like 100 damn plays," Fresno State forward Sylvester Seay said late in the season. "It's like taking a test and guessing what things the teacher's going to put on the test." In the regular season, the Aggies led the WAC in field goal percentage (48.9), 3-point percentage (42.0) and free throw shooting (76.6). Starting guard Pooh Williams is one of the top defenders in the WAC and typically draws the assignment against the opposition's top perimeter player. Although the team appears young -- point guard Jared Quayle is the only senior -- the Aggies are collectively older than most college teams because many of their players have taken two-year church missions.
WEAKNESSES: Utah State doesn't play the kind of nonconference schedule, nor does it play in the kind of league, that will generate a potentially decent seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Aggies are always trying to pull off an upset in the first round, often facing a more-athletic team with NBA talent. Utah State doesn't have any of that. The Aggies have bowed out of the NCAAs in the first round in their past four attempts, last winning in 2001, when they beat Ohio State in overtime in the first round.