Utah State to face Illinois State in the BracketBuster

Illinois State LogoSo much for regional matchups. Just when I was pretty sure Utah State would see a regional matchup with Montana, Pacific, or even UC Irvine, ESPN sent us a team from back east. The Illinois State Redbirds will be visiting the Spectrum on Saturday February 23rd at 7:00 Mountain Time.

While the game is not televised on the ESPN networks, there is still a chance that it may be picked up by KMYU TV in Utah. Last year it was announced two days before game day that the BracketBuster game against UC Santa Barbara was to be televised on KMYU.

Utah State has faced Illinois State 5 times and has won 2 of those match ups. Two of the games were NIT contests (both won by Illinois State). For a full history between the two schools check out the Illinois State page at USUStats.com.

2012-13 Gossner Classic Opponents

Even though basketball season is still about five months away, we found out a little more about some of the opponents that we can expect in the Spectrum this coming year. Thanks to ProvoAggie at USUFans.com, we have learned the field for the 2012-13 World Vision Classic (Gossner Classic). The three opponents this year are Southern Illinois, UC-Davis, and Nicholls State.

When I first heard that Southern Illinois would be heading to town I was very excited to be bringing in one of the elite mid-major basketball programs in the country. Then I consulted RPIForecast.com and realized that SIU is no longer the team that I remembered them to be.

Let’s take a look at all three teams:

Southern Illinois LogoSouthern Illinois
Conference: Missouri Valley Conference
Historical record against Utah State: 2-0
2011-12 Record: 8-23 (5-13 in conference)
2011-12 RPI: 255

Nicholls State LogoNicholls State
Conference: Southland
Historical record against Utah State: N/A
2011-12 Record: 10-20 (6-10 in conference)
2011-12 RPI: 298

UC Davis LogoUC-Davis
Conference: Big West
Historical record against Utah State: 0-1
2011-12 Record: 5-26 (3-13 in conference)
2011-12 RPI: 338

Barring an unforeseen disaster, I think it’s safe to assume that the Aggies will continue their string of undefeated dominance in the Gossner Classic and add yet another trophy to the trophy case.

The Southern Illinoisan has a write-up with some quotes from the SIU Associate Head Coach Tom Hankins.

“It’s a great crowd. Their home record over the last six years, I’m sure, is above 80 percent at home, so it’s a really good home-court,” Hankins said. “It’s a mid-major program that is one of the top ones in the country, and not a whole lot of people know about it.”

Some kind words for sure. Unfortunately for Tom he was slightly off. The Aggies are actually 98-7 over the last six years giving them a winning percentage of .933.

Here’s one more quote from Hankins about the advantage of playing in a round-robin type tournament:

“When you play a conference tournament, you’re playing three games in three days, so, we’re preparing for that, playing back-to-back,” Hankins said. “You could compare Utah State to a lot of Valley schools. They’re going to finish in the top three in their league every year. They play like Creighton and Northern Iowa. The level of play is a lot like playing a higher-level Valley team.”

History of Aggie-Hosted Tournaments (43-1)
Big Blue Classic (5-1)
Gossner Sponsored Tournaments (38-0)
Gossner Classic (26-0)
Duel in the Desert (3-0)
Basketball Travelers Invitational (3-0)
World Vision Invitational (3-0)
Athletes In Action Classic (3-0)

Utah State Scheduling Article

Stew MorrillSpecial thanks to Parsing The WAC for alerting me to this tremendous writeup by Steve McGargee of Rivals.com.

Steve really did his research and got some good quotes from the Utah State Basketball Coaching Staff. The article touches on Stew Morrill’s scheduling philosophy, the RPI, NCAA Tournament Seedings (including quotes from Selection Committee Member and Utah State Athletics Director Scott Barnes), among other topics. Definitely a well written article worth reading. I was so impressed I wrote an email to the author.

Pair this article up with the one that I wrote earlier in the week about the affect that the new WAC Additions will have on the WAC’s RPI, and it paints a clear picture of why Stew and co. need to beef up their out of conference schedule. I, for one, am very grateful they have already started down that path, and look forward to seeing the final schedule sometime this week.

Utah Media Continues To Call Out Utes

Big Blue Chasing a "Runnin' Ute"
Mike Sorenson from the Deseret News wrote an article yesterday titled “Utah Utes basketball should keep playing Utah State Aggies“. This is the second piece I have seen coming from the Salt Lake City newspapers on the subject, the other written by Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune.

Both writers had basically the same view: The Utes should continue the 100+ year rivalry with Utah State in basketball. They also both concurred that the Utes seem to be avoiding the continuation of the basketball rivalry due to the fact that coming to Logan pretty much guarantees them a loss (they haven’t won there since 1995).

For those of you that missed it, I also wrote a piece on this topic a couple of weeks ago titled “The Runnin’ Utes are Runnin’ Scared“.

The one upside to all of this? At least the Aggies won’t take a hit to their RPI and strength of schedule by playing the Utes this coming year. That said, I still think the games should continue. It’s a real shame to see a 100+ year rivalry come to an end like this.

(Image created by Jason Wright.)

Aggies to face Mississippi State

Mississippi State University LogoTony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune broke the news today that Utah State has signed an agreement to play a 2-for-1 series with the Mississippi State Bulldogs. The first game will be played at Mississippi State on Dec. 31, 2011. The Bulldogs will make their way to the Spectrum two years later during the 2013-14 season. The Aggies will then play a final game at Mississippi State in 2014-15.

This news is exciting news for Utah State fans who have seldom seen BCS opponents in out of conference play in recent years. They should start to get used to this new trend, however, as there will be BCS opponents on the schedule for many years to come. Let’s take a look at what we know so far:

2010-11 @ Georgetown
2011-12 @ Mississippi State
2012-13 vs. USC
2013-14 vs. Mississippi State & @ USC
2014-15 @ Mississippi State.

There were also rumors of a home and home arrangement with Colorado that apparently has subsequently fallen through. It appears that Stew Morrill is willing to bend his strict scheduling philosophy of only home-and-home agreements. Will this prove to be to the Aggies advantage or their detriment? You make the call.

Runnin’ Utes are Runnin’ Scared

Big Blue Chasing Runnin' Ute

The University of Utah basketball program has given a new meaning to the nickname “Runnin’ Utes”.  After seeing their program fall into the depths of despair under the watch of Jim Boylen the Utes are now “Runnin’ Scared” from 100+ years of basketball tradition by putting a sudden stop to their series with the Utah State Aggies.

This decision comes as no surprise to many Utah State fans.  They’ve seen this before.  In 2006, Utah State’s other in-state rival, the BYU Cougars successfully weaseled their way out of playing Utah State, and successfully avoided the Spectrum for four consecutive years.  They finally returned to Logan after Utah State legend and all-time scorer Jaycee Carroll had graduated and moved on.  Unfortunately for them it didn’t matter.  The Aggies once again made quick work of the Cougars defeating them (Jimmer and all) 71-61 in 2009.

First the Cougars, and now the Utes… What gives?  Here are a few things to consider:

Spectrum Dominance

The Spectrum is a death sentence to virtually every opponent who dares enter.  Since Stew Morrill took the helm at Utah State, the Aggies have amassed a ridiculous home record of 193-13.  Yes.  One hundred and ninety-three wins and a paltry thirteen losses.  In fact, over the last four seasons the Aggies are 68-1 at home including three undefeated seasons.  Their one loss came at the hands of the St. Mary’s Gaels due to some late game heroics.

The Spectrum atmosphere is widely considered as one of the best college basketball atmospheres in the country.  The loudest thing I have ever heard in my life was when Chaz Spicer hit the game winning 3-point shot against Utah on Dec, 6, 2006.  The noise level apparently got to the point where my ears could no longer register the sounds and it all meshed into a surreal eerie silence.  A few years ago against Nevada, former Aggie Stavon Williams said that the Spectrum noise level made him dizzy and forget where he was momentarily after scoring these 8 straight points against the Wolfpack.  Jared Eborn put it best in this article when he called it “ear-splitting thunder” causing press row to literally hold their hands over their ears for minutes at a time to avoid permanent hearing loss.

Records Against In-State Foes

Over the last ten years the Aggies have not lost a single game to an in-state foe in Logan, Utah.  They are a combined 21-0 against BYU, Utah, Weber State, Utah Valley, and Southern Utah.  That includes six straight victories over Weber State, five straight over both BYU and Utah, three straight over Utah Valley, and two straight over Southern Utah.


In recent years the Aggies have not only been competing with, but beating BYU and Utah for in-state recruits.  A great example occurred earlier this year.  After firing Jim Boylen (a great move by the Utes after his repeated failed attempts at being anything more than a steaming hot-head sideshow attempting to lead a crumbling basketball program) the Utes hired Larry Krystkowiak. Larry had a good relationship with Stew Morrill after playing under him at the University of Montana. Upon landing the head coaching job for the Utes Krystkowiak called up Stew for some advice on the lay of the land in the State of Utah Basketball scene. Within one week of this friendly phone call “Coach K” went out and attempted to steal Quicy Bair who had verbally committed to the Aggies nearly a year prior. Bair promptly gave the Utes a “Thanks, but no thanks” and stayed committed to the Aggies. Other examples of players who have been wooed by BYU and Utah but eventually became Aggies are Gary Wilkinson, Tai Wesley, Tyler Newbold, and Brady Jardine. The Utes and Cougars still win a fair share of recruiting battles (mostly the Cougars due to their LDS-based school advantages – see Steven Rogers and Brandon Davies), but the gap has definitely tightened in recent years.

In-state games in the Spectrum against BYU and Utah are recruiting gold-mines for Stew and co. These oft televised games guarantee a rabid, sold out environment, and nearly always end with an Aggie victory.  It’s no secret that Morrill has done all he can to pack the house with his recruits for these games. Nothing like taking your in-state rivals out to the woodshed for an annual beating in front of your prized recruits.

The PAC 12 Dillema

The Utes will be officially entering PAC 12 play this year. This affects the Utah vs. Utah State rivalry for a few reasons.

First, Utah now has two fewer out of conference games to deal with. However, this didn’t stop them from scheduling the likes of San Diego Christian College, Cal State Fullerton, Idaho State, Montana State, and Portland. All at home I might add. That’s REALLY going to help your RPI. At least they will have a shot at amassing some wins. Then again… nothing is guaranteed with the Utes anymore. Remember Southwest Baptist anyone?

Moving to a BCS conference has also affected Utah’s scheduling philosophies. What do most BCS schools do? Play cupcakes at home during OOC play, amass impressive win-loss records, and then start conference play against conference-mates who have done the same. There are few exceptions to this rule. How often have you seen BCS teams come to play in Logan? It’s incredibly hard to talk them into it. They have nothing to win and everything to lose. You would think that Utah would respect the rivalry and have the guts to play the Aggies in Logan. But you would be wrong.

There is only one word that can be used to describe the current “Runnin’ Utes”…



(Image created by Jason Wright.)