NET rankings, strength of schedule, conference record, key wins. Sometimes you just need to pass the eye test when the committee is paying the closest attention – the home stretch.
The Aggies of Utah St have not been on my NCAA tournament radar until the past two weeks. Do you blame me? They had not beaten a single team that they could brag about … that is, until the Wolf Pack came to town.
Back in the infancy of conference play, Nevada torched the Aggies by 23 in the desert. It was never a very close game. Aggies HC Craig Smith and his boys had to wait 59 long days to get another shot. They did not waste it, beating conference-leading Nevada by 5 in a back n’ forth scuffle for supremacy in the Mountain West.
This win does wonders for Utah St’s NCAA tournament stock. Their 6th straight win gives the Aggies a splendid 24-6 record. Their 14-3 conference record leads the MWC. Most importantly, this win over ranked Nevada finally gives Utah St something pretty to display on the committee’s eye test mantle.
Before beating the Wolf Pack, Utah St’s resume contained the following teams (listed in the order the Aggies beat them): Montana St, Hartford, Mississippi Valley, Utah Valley, St Mary’s, Northern Iowa, UC Irvine, Weber St, ASU Hornets, Eastern Oregon, Air Force (2x), Wyoming (2x), San Jose St, Colorado St, UNLV, Fresno St, New Mexico, Boise St, San Diego St. Not exactly a who’s who of national powerhouses.
No sports article is complete without some jaw-dropping numbers. Thanks to TeamRankings I have plenty. TR has one main flaw which they disclose – they still use RPI to calculate NCAA tournament seeding. With 2018-19 being the first season the committee is using the new NET rankings, the folks at TR are unsure of how heavily the new metric will be relied upon when making seeding decisions and have chosen to stick with RPI for this season.
That should not change the numbers much at all. Let’s dig in!
Utah St Beating Nevada Almost Locks up a Spot for the Aggies
I say almost because anything can happen in March. Case in point, check out the fluctuation in these Utah St odds from one week ago compared to their current odds.
|Date||Make NCAA Tourney||Auto Bid||At Large Bid||Most Likely Seed||Final Four||NCAA Champs|
Remember, the Nevada game was March 2nd. Beating Nevada was the push the Aggies needed to get them over the top. Take away Nevada and that Aggie resume is complete garbage.
Helping the Aggies’ case for an at large bid is their star junior guard Sam Merrill. Merrill went off for 29 against Nevada, shooting 4-7 from deep and 9-10 from the line. This level of play is nothing new for the Utah native, who averaged just over 16 ppg as a sophomore and is netting over 20 ppg this season.
Not only do fans enjoy tuning into watch star players dominate in March, but the committee is more likely to give them a chance. Remember that eye test I was talking about earlier? Basketball is a game dictated by star players. One man can run the show and make up for a whole host of team deficiencies. Sam Merrill is eye candy for the committee.
With a healthy resume, a budding superstar, and a 6-game winning streak extending into early March, the Aggies are now twice as likely to make the dance as they were prior to the Nevada game.
TR, and many others, believe it will not matter much, however. No one is giving the Aggies a chance to make a deep run. Playing in the MWC means you get no respect from the media or the betting public. To an experience sports bettor, this signals there is value available. I’m a huge fan of teams built around high-scoring upperclassmen guards come tournament time.
Now that it seems likely Utah St makes the dance, I may have found my new favorite Cinderella team. Utah St is currently +50000 to win the NCAA title and just under that mark to reach the Final Four. I’ll take a flyer on that.
See you on top, boppers!
Kreighton loves sports, math, writing, and winning — he combines all of them as a writer for WagerBop. His favorite sports to review and bet are MLB, NFL, NBA, NCAAF, and NCAABB.