2020 Utah State Aggies NCAA Basketball National Championship Odds with Predictions
Last year, the Utah State Aggies were one of the biggest surprises in college basketball - even if most people didn't notice. They were widely expected to live in the cellar of the Mountain West heading into the season. Instead, they won the regular season title, wound up in the Top 25, and then won the conference tournament for good measure. It didn't end like a Disney movie should, though, as they lost to Washington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed. It was one heck of a first season for coach Craig Smith, who came from South Dakota to take over a team that had missed the tournament six years in a row. But now he has to follow it up, and this time around he isn't going to sneak up on anyone. The roster has gone through plenty of changes, but they still bring four starters back. And one of those starters was the Mountain West player of the year, while another won both the conference defensive player of the year and the freshman of the year. And they have added some interesting talent as well. The hype is real here - when a Mountain West team starts the season ranked 17th overall it means something. Can they live up to it?
Utah State Aggies Additions/Losses
The biggest "addition" is a guy who was probably expected to leave after last year. Neemias Queta, the 6'11" Portuguese big man, flirted with the draft after his massive rookie season, but he chose to come back for another year. It's a big break for the team. So is having senior guard Sam Merrill, the three-year starter and reigning conference player of the year, back - though his pro prospects are far less optimistic. What they did lose, though, is two seniors - wing Dwayne Brown Jr., and forward Quinn Taylor. And they saw guard John Knight III leave for Southern Utah University despite having a fairly successful sophomore season. Crew Ainge, the son of Celtics GM Danny, also left the team after two seasons, though his impact is hardly irreplaceable.
Queta is dealing with a knee injury suffered while playing on the Portuguese national team this summer, so he will be slow returning to the lineup. That's an issue for this team early on - especially because they also lost the two seniors. It means that there will be a lot of new faces up front for a while. And 7'2" Polish big man Kuba Karwowski transferred in from North Platte Community College and could be a real force. So will another giant - 6'11" Trevin Dorius - who is coming off his redshirt. And Canadian Liam McChesney, who is the highest rated high school recruit ever at Utah State even though he ranks only 173rd in this year's class, juco transfer Alphonso Anderson, junior Roche Grootfaam, who redshirted due to injury last year, and junior Klay Stall, who also missed last year due to injury, are all going to be ready as well. Size is not going to be an issue among that group, and the upside is there. But with so many changes, there are obvious questions as well.
In the backcourt, they are much more stable - Merrill, Brock Miller, and Abel Porter are all back after being regular starters last year, and Diogo Brito is a senior who is the team's top bench player. Sean Bairstow, a large and versatile Australian guard, is the lone high school addition who could find a role.
Utah State Aggies Schedule
The nonconference schedule is mostly manageable. They opened against Montana State, and it was tougher than it should have been, so the sooner Queta gets back, the better. Things are straightforward until their early-season tournament, which is the Jamaica Classic. There, they face the prospect of a very interesting matchup with 22nd ranked LSU. And they won't be home from there for long before they head to play No. 20 Saint Mary's. And right before Christmas, they play No. 6 Florida in Miami. Conference play is a balanced schedule, and if they are healthy they will be the team to beat.
Utah State Aggies Futures Odds and Trends
The Aggies are favored to win the Mountain West at +150, ahead of Nevada at +250 and San Diego State at +400. The team is at +25000 to win the national title. That puts them in the realm of serious long shots - though no one would consider them a remote threat to cut down the nets even in the best-case scenario, anyway.
The team was an impressive 28-7 last year but wound up a much less impressive 18-16 ATS. That mirrors their totals performance as well - they went over 18 times and under 16.
Utah State Aggies Predictions
It all comes down to how soon Queta comes back. He's that important to this team. The frontcourt has to adapt in a big way, and it can't do that without their centerpiece in place. If he comes back soon and is healthy, then the team can live up to expectations. But if he can't get back soon, or can't stay healthy, then it's a bigger question. The strength of the backcourt keeps the floor pretty high for this team, but it is really hard to judge where the ceiling is right now.
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