"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting to Know Utah State, Part One

After an 18-game conference season that offered a host of familiar opponents and styles of play the Marquette Golden Eagles head out to Boise to face an unfamiliar foe, the 30-4 Utah State Aggies in the opening round of the 2009 NCAA Tournament.

Don't know much about the Aggies? We have you covered today with two Q/A segments featuring Aggie beat reporters Jared Eborn of the Deseret News and Martin Renzhofer of the Salt Lake Tribune. We asked Jared ad Martin different sets of questions, hoping to learn as much as we can about the Aggies in preparation for Friday's game. Check back later today for Martin's Q/A.


First up is Jared Eborn's response to our Q/A. Jared is a sports writer for the Deseret News.

CS: In general how would you characterize the Aggies' season?
Eborn: Utah State graduated an All-American guard named Jaycee Carroll who is the school’s all-time leading scorer. In the eyes of many, that made this a rebuilding season. So this has certainly been a year where expectations were exceeded. I’d guess winning 30 games would exceed the expectations for almost every school. The season was never really in trouble, but the team began to play at a higher level when junior Jared Quayle made the move from shooting guard to the point.

CS: What are the Aggies most defining characteristics?
Eborn: The Aggies do not play above the rim or at a very high tempo. But they are capable of that if needed. USU likes to run its offense and execute its plays. They patiently wait for good shots, then make another pass of two for a better shot. They are older than most teams, but not necessarily more experienced. Two years as a Mormon missionary does not include much basketball, weight lifting or condition other than walking door-to-door and riding bikes to and from appointments. That said, Utah State uses the mental maturity to make good decisions and stay focused. They do have good athletes on the wings, but the pace of the game typically does not allow them to fly high because transition baskets are rare. USU shoots a high percentage and defends well.

CS: In looking quickly at the Aggies it seems they start their offense inside-out, preferring a slower pace....is this an accurate read on their offense?
Eborn: A good read, actually. USU goes to Wilkinson and Wesley first, then looks for open shots from the perimeter. While the pace can be slowed down, it’s actually not that bad and USU will take quick shots if they are open. On defense, if the Aggies can get a team to take a quick bad shot, they are very happy. Otherwise, USU is content to play tough defense and let opponents work the clock down.

CS: Which types of teams have presented problems for the Aggies this season?
Eborn: Exceptionally tall teams or lightning quick guards are USU’s problems. While the Aggie post players are strong and ‘court savvy’ the do not have big lift or long arms. And USU’s 3-guard lineup can be pressured into turnovers by fast guards.

CS: Marquette is decidedly guard-oriented and very quick. How have the Aggies fared against teams with a similar profile this season?
Eborn: USU has fared pretty well against all types of teams they have faced – a 30-4 record testifies to that. But quick guards to play tough defense and deny passes to USU guards in the flow of the offense can disrupt the play and often create turnovers. Defensively, USU is deceptively good and has had tremendous success shutting down guards. But if someone is hitting 3-point shots with success, it will stretch the Aggie defense and can create problems when USU tries to play help defense.

CS: In Gary Wilkerson the Aggies have a skilled 6'9" big man and a talented post in Tai Wesley. Are these guys the focal point of the Aggies offense?
Eborn: Absolutely. Wilkinson is a skilled player who can get a variety of shots off and has surprising range with his jumper. Wesley is a bull inside. He’s Polynesian and not afraid to mix it up with players and show he’s got some strength to go with his skill. He can get into foul trouble, though, because of those tendencies. But more and more this season, point guard Jared Quayle has become Option 2 on offense. He is a mature player who takes care of the ball and creates shots for others. He’s also as good a rebounding guard as there is in the West with great leaping ability and a knack for the ball.

CS: Defensively, how do you expect Coach Morrill to approach Friday's game?
Eborn: Morrill will take advantage of the time to scout Marquette well and draw up a good game plan. The Aggies will also take the extra day and rest. They are tired after three games in three days and have a few injuries to tend to. I have no doubt USU will be full of respect for the type of program Marquette has, so there will be no overconfidence even though USU has 30 wins. The Golden Eagles will most likely be the toughest team USU has faced this year. But they will not be intimidated – Utah State’s age and maturity will help with that. But my guess is Morrill will try to have wings Tyler Newbold and Pooh Williams guard Marquette’s talented backcourt and try to exploit any advantage they can inside. USU will have five players crashing the defensive boards to try and prevent second-chance points. The margin of error for USU will be small and allowing Marquette to get second looks will not work.

Jared, thanks very much for your time.

Fans, please follow Jared's work all week long as he chronicles the Aggies' preparation for the NCAA Tournament on Friday.


Unknown said...

Should be a great game! Play smart and focused and let our athleticism take over both on offense and defense.

Oliver said...

I am probably setting myself up for disappointment, but I like this matchup. Patient teams have trouble with Marquette and I like that they will be happy to let us shoot quickly.

Marquette tends to get their points, whether in transition or from outside. Their issues lately have been defensively in back-and-forth games. If Marquette drives hard and pushes the ball, they should keep Utah on its heels.

College Slam Dunk & 3-Point said...


Bruce Pearl, head coach of 9-seed Tennessee, breaks down the 6-11 match-up in the West Region between the Marquette Golden Eagles and the Utah State Aggies.