Utah St. Aggies vs. San Diego St. Aztecs Pick & Prediction MARCH 15th 2024

Utah State already found out that owning the top seed for the Mountain West Conference tournament can’t be cashed in for points or victories.

They still need to play the games, and the Aggies likely will face another difficult task when they take on fifth-seeded San Diego State in a semifinal game Friday night in Las Vegas.

Utah State, ranked No. 18 in the nation, needed overtime in its tournament opener on Thursday before finally pulling away to beat ninth-seeded Fresno State 87-75 in a quarterfinal game.

The Aggies squandered an eight-point lead with 4:45 left in regulation, but regrouped in overtime and outscored Fresno State 17-5.

“We tend to thrive in close games,” said Utah State forward Great Osobor, who had a team-leading 29 points and 17 rebounds. “I’m happy for our team’s resiliency and the way that we stick together in close games.”

The Aggies (27-5) kept going while the other MWC team in the Top 25 rankings, Nevada, was upset later Friday by Colorado State.

Osobor said the preparation for a postseason run began as far back as last summer, when first-year coach Danny Sprinkle practiced as if it were mid-October.

“I don’t know if a lot of teams do that, but I do know that coach Sprinkle’s teams are going to practice hard in the summer,” Osobor said. “I think that prepares you for March in close games when you need to be out there.”

Osobor played 44 minutes against Fresno State and Utah State guard Darius Brown II played all 45, finishing with 17 points and 11 assists.

“That’s what great players do, they don’t want to come out of the game,” Sprinkle said. “We have media timeouts, we have plenty of timeouts. These guys have been playing a lot of minutes all year, and they’re accustomed to it, but you can see when they come out of the game, they’re (mad) at me, and that’s what I want, but we’ve got to have them on the floor.”

Osobor and Brown also had to fill the void of Mason Falslev, who missed the win against Fresno State because of a shoulder injury. Falslev, the team’s fourth-leading scorer (11.6), is doubtful to play against San Diego State.

“I don’t expect him to play tomorrow, to be honest. I hope he does,” Sprinkle said.

The Aztecs (23-9) also needed overtime before escaping the quarterfinals with a 74-71 win against fourth-seeded UNLV.

The Runnin’ Rebels rallied from a 10-point deficit with just over six minutes left and tied it at 65 with six seconds left to force overtime.

San Diego State forward Jaedon LeDee scored seven of the Aztecs’ nine points in overtime to push his team into the semifinals.

LeDee finished with 34 points and 16 rebounds to lead the way.

“He has to dominate for us to win,” San Diego State guard Lamont Butler said. “We’re going to keep feeding off his energy and try to match it and get some more wins.”

San Diego State advanced all the way to the NCAA Tournament championship game last season, helped along by a buzzer-beater in the Final Four by Butler.

“You miss shots, you make shots, you might go 15 in a row, you might miss 15 in a row, but you’ve got to keep playing because you never know what’s going to happen,” Butler said. “You’ve got to just keep chasing your dreams.”

–Field Level Media

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