San Jose St.-Utah St. Preview

After cruising through the regular season, Utah State earned the

top seed in the Western Athletic Conference tournament for a fourth

straight year.

However, since nothing is guaranteed when it comes to earning an

NCAA tournament bid, it’s being careful not to get overly

confident.

The 23rd-ranked Aggies open conference tournament play Friday

night when they take on eighth-seeded San Jose State in a semifinal

matchup.

Utah State (28-3) easily won the conference regular-season

title, finishing five games ahead of second-place Boise State. The

Aggies closed with six straight victories, including Saturday’s

72-30 rout at Louisiana Tech.

With the victory, Utah State set a school record for

regular-season wins. The Aggies won 26 of their final 27 games,

suffering their only conference loss at Idaho on Feb. 9.

Despite the impressive finish, Utah State wants to make sure

it’s a lock when it comes to Sunday’s NCAA tournament selection.

The Aggies received bids each of the last two seasons after being

passed over in 2008 despite winning the regular-season title. That

year, they lost in the second round of the conference

tournament.

Coach Stew Morrill thinks his team has made a good case

already.

“I’m not much for lobbying on those kind of things, but I think

our RPI, winning that number of games and winning our league by

five games, logic would tell you we’ve got enough,” Morrill said.

“But things aren’t logical, so we’ll see. We’re really not trying

to worry about that, either. We’re just going to go play the

tournament hard as we can play.”

Utah State has the conference player of the year in senior

forward Tai Wesley, who averaged 14.5 points and 7.9 rebounds while

shooting close to 60 percent from the field.

The Aggies open the tournament looking to win their eighth

straight over San Jose State (17-14) after defeating the Spartans

twice during the regular season. The Aggies won 84-65 on Jan. 27 as

Wesley was held to nine points. He scored 16 in an 80-71 home

victory over the Spartans on Dec. 31.

Despite the winning streak, Utah State won’t be taking the

Spartans lightly after they come in having beaten two higher

seeds.

After surviving a last-second review to top fifth-seeded Hawaii

75-74 on Wednesday, San Jose State knocked off the No. 4 seed by

defeating Idaho 74-68 on Thursday.

The Spartans pulled off the latest upset thanks to some hot

outside shooting. They hit 13 3-pointers – six each from guards

Keith Shamburger and Adrian Oliver, who had 28 points apiece.

“I was real happy with our composure and discipline throughout

the game,” coach George Nessman told the Spartans’ official

website. “Obviously, we made a bunch of three’s. We’re clearly

capable of that.”

Oliver, who led the conference in scoring with 24.5 points per

game, had 29 against Hawaii. He also scored 29 in the most recent

matchup with Utah State.