Utah St. Aggies vs. Fresno St. Bulldogs Pick & Prediction MARCH 14th 2024

Don’t expect Utah State to sneak up on anyone this week.

The Aggies recently clinched their first outright regular-season title in their 11th season in the Mountain West Conference. They also moved up to No. 18 in the Associated Press Top 25 and earned the top seed for the conference tournament that began Wednesday in Las Vegas.

Utah State (26-5) is scheduled to open play on Thursday afternoon against ninth-seeded Fresno State (12-20), which rallied from a seven-point deficit with 3:20 remaining in a 77-73 victory over Wyoming on Wednesday.

The Aggies did not return any players who scored a point last season, giving Mountain West coaches good reason to pick them to finish ninth in the conference in their annual preseason poll.

The only other NCAA teams that didn’t return any scoring this season were New Mexico State and Northwestern State.

“This will never be done in Division I basketball again, winning a Mountain West championship after you don’t return a (player who scored a) point, not at the Power Six level anyway,” Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle said. “What these guys have done, and how they’ve come together and care and love each other, is real.”

Sprinkle, in his first season after coming over from Montana State, earned Mountain West Coach of the Year honors after guiding a team that’s third in the nation in 3-point defense (28.2).

Great Osobor and Darius Brown II followed Sprinkle to Utah State for their final seasons, and it paid off.

Osobor earned both the Player and Newcomer of the Year in the conference after averaging 17.6 points and 9.0 rebounds a game, while Brown averaged 12.4 points and 6.4 assists, hitting a handful of game-winning shots in the final seconds along the way.

“They left a lot of friends in a great college town to come here to another great college town,” Sprinkle said. “They left because of personal relationships and trust in us, and that means a lot because they were offered a lot of money to go other places. I’m not scared to say that. They passed up a lot of money to come with us, and that probably means more than anything.”

Brown said the opportunity to play his final season with a coach and in a system he was comfortable with played a big role in his decision to transfer to Utah State.

“I knew there was just more security playing for (Sprinkle),” Brown said. “I wouldn’t have to change myself for the team to be successful.”

The Aggies have shown their comfort outside of Logan, Utah as well, winning eight road games this season and four at neutral sites.

Utah State has won both games against Fresno State this season but had to go to overtime to win their most recent meeting on Feb. 27.

The Bulldogs showed their ability to bounce back Wednesday after losing to Wyoming by 39 points on Saturday in the regular-season finale.

“I was unhappy (with Saturday’s loss), and if I’m unhappy and you’re around me during basketball season, then you’ve got to take my lead,” Fresno State coach Justin Hutson said. “I thought we needed to play with more pride and more swag, and we did it.”

–Field Level Media

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