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Andy Wittry | NCAA.com | March 11, 2020

2020 NCAA tournament preview: Get to know Mountain West champion Utah State

Utah State's Sam Merrill on game-winner: 'It's pretty surreal'

In the end, the Mountain West preseason media poll got it right. In October, Utah State was picked to finish first as it received all 17 first-place votes, while San Diego State was picked second.

That's how the Mountain West tournament finished, too, after San Diego State's Malachi Flynn threw up a game-tying 3-pointer a step or two across halfcourt and the ball ricocheted out of the hoop, giving the Aggies a 59-56 win that leaves the recently undefeated Aztecs as the Mountain West regular season champs and Utah State as the conference's auto-bid recipient.

Here's everything you need to know about Mountain West tournament champion Utah State.

Utah State: Record, quick facts

Record: 26-8 (12-6 Mountain West)
Conference standing: T-2nd
NET ranking: No. 43 (as of March 7)
NCAA tournament appearances: 22nd
Best NCAA tournament seed: No. 8 (2019)
Best NCAA tournament finish: Lost in the regional final in 1970

For the first time since 2011, Utah State will make the NCAA tournament in consecutive seasons. The Aggies are coming off of a 2018-19 season in which they shared the regular season conference title, won the conference tournament and earned a program-best No. 8 seed before losing to Pac-12 champion Washington in the first round.

CONFERENCE TOURNAMENTS: Tracking brackets, schedules and scores

While San Diego State's pursuit of an undefeated season was the biggest story in the Mountain West this season, the Aggies have a slightly better record than the Aztecs since Jan. 21 – 12-2 compared to 11-2.

This is a Utah State team that's very unselfish (ninth in assist rate entering the Mountain West tournament championship), one of the tallest in the country (10th in kenpom.com's average height stat), very familiar roster (38th in minutes continuity) and very good at scoring on and defending 2-point attempts.

When you analyze Utah State's record this season, it's not terribly different from last season. Six of the Aggies' eight losses came on the road and a seventh was on a neutral court. One came by two points, another was by four and a third was in overtime.

They lost twice to San Diego State — a team that's been discussed as a potential No. 1 seed for the last two months — and they fell during non-conference play to Saint Mary's and BYU by single-digits away from home.

Utah State is led by potential All-American guard Sam Merrill (19.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.0 apg) and it has a legit 7-footer in Neemias Queta (12.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg).

How many teams can make that claim?

While the Aggies aren't elite on either end of the floor, they're hovering around the top-50 mark in offensive and defensive efficiency, giving them a respectable balance.

Plus, if you buy into the old adage that "you're only as good as your last game," Utah State's last game was a neutral-court win over a San Diego State team that will receive strong consideration to be a No. 1 or No. 2 seed.

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