COLUMN: It’s ‘Win or stay home’ for the Aggies from here
Livin' the Dream
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 13:01
It wasn’t a great road trip for the men’s basketball team, to say the least. Back-to-back losses by double-digits speaks for itself. Losing two of your starters and leading scorers is even worse.
But fear not, Aggie Nation: There’s still hope.
I think Saturday at Denver was an OK thing for the Aggies and a step in the right direction in dealing with the injuries to Medlin and Reed.
Sitting in fourth place with three losses — two of them conference — means any potential for an at-large NCAA tournament bid is dangling by a single thread, if not dead entirely.
The good news is that the WAC is a weak conference, which means that the Aggies should still finish among the top teams and have a decent seed in the conference tournament. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but the WAC tourney is pretty much the only shot Utah State has at punching a ticket to the big dance — which is every team’s goal every season — with the weak schedule this season.
That shouldn’t be new information to anyone who’s followed the Aggies over the years. USU has always been hurt by playing in weaker conferences. But this season, it should offer a glimmer of hope that the high-expectations can in fact still be reached.
Think about it. Medlin, Reed and Shaw have been shouldering the scoring load this season, with little to no help from the already shallow bench. With two of the three sitting out against the Pioneers, it basically forced the rest of the team to step up to even have a shot at winning on the road.
Marvin Jean and Ben Clifford, two of the major role players off the bench, had 14 and eight points, respectively. Perhaps this was the thing to get them going and be a launchpad, so to speak, to help the team maintain a level of confidence without two of its key players.
One man teams don’t win championships in any level of the game, and at the college level, two or three guys can carry a team to the conference tournament. But all it takes is for one or two of them to have a bad postseason game on the same night and the season is over at that point.
If the Aggies are going to win the conference tournament, the team is going to have to rise to the occasion. Everyone will have to step up and contribute in every game down the stretch.
Because, let’s face the facts — even if by some miracle the short-handed Aggies ran the table from here on out and then lost in the conference tournament, a weak WAC schedule isn’t going to earn them an at-large berth.
I’m not saying it will happen, but the baseball team rode a unified but small core of players to a national title last season. There’s no reason to think that this year’s basketball team can’t do the same with a conference title.
But a weak schedule is a two-edged sword in this league.
There were three games at the start of the season that the selection committee would deem “quality” wins and boost USU’s resume: St. Mary’s, BYU, and the ESPN Bracketbuster. The loss to the Gaels doesn’t hurt the Aggies per say, but it certainly doesn’t help.
And while there’s no such thing as a “good loss,” the losses to New Mexico State and Denver are definitely “bad losses” in the eyes of the NCAA selection committee.
The point is, Utah State has no room for error the rest of the season.
So while the Aggies aren’t dead and buried, the dirt is filling in. At this point, they’re better off focusing on winning the conference tournament rather than stressing about not being able to lose another game and having a hot-start to the season be for nothing.