Respect Is Earned, Not Given

Matt SonnenbergContributor IFebruary 3, 2009

At 21-1, the Utah State Aggies join the Oklahoma Sooners as the teams with the records that the rest of the nation is looking up at. The Aggies boast the nation's longest winning streak at 16 games, are tied for the best record, but just barely managed to break into the top-25 in each of the two major weekly polls.

It's far too often these days that players, coaches, and teams complain about a lack of respect when they make some plays and win some games. Far too often these players and teams want respect to simply be handed to them. Far too often there are teams that let their perceived lack of respect become a distraction in trying to prove their doubters wrong.

In the case of the No. 22 ranked Aggies, the honor of being a top-25 team is one that was 100 percent earned.

After a 5-0 start the Aggies suffered their lone loss of the season in a neutral-site game against BYU in a game where the Aggies shot a lowly 5-22 from behind the 3-point line, were minus-eight in turnovers, yet still lost by just five points to a top-50 RPI team.

The Aggies bounced back from their loss with three straight road victories, a dramatic home win over a top-20 RPI team in the University of Utah, and have opened Western Athletic Conference play with a 9-0 record.

While USU's strength of schedule is far from top-notch, their record is a pair of missed 3-pointers away from perfection. There reaches a point, however, where a team's record is just too good to look away from, no matter how weak a schedule they may have played. For Utah State's strength of schedule, that point is apparently the 21-1 record where they stood when the Feb. 2 rankings were released and the Aggies made their season debut in the top-25.

Just one time out of 22 games thus far has Utah State found themselves on the wrong end of a final score. All the while, Utah State's players and coaches didn't demand they be given respect. The Aggies stood at 12-1 when their first top-25 votes came rolling in. Nobody on the team complained that they deserved more respect, they just kept working.

A week later at 15-1 there were more top-25 votes to go around, but still no complaints from the team. Two more weeks and two more road wins later the Aggies were at 19-1 and had spent an entire month as a fringe top-25 team. Ahead was a home match-up against preseason WAC favorite Nevada and a road game against Fresno State, a team who had given USU fits in their first meeting this season.

The Aggies took care of all business that they had to and then some, namely a 75-foot buzzer beater to send one game to overtime, in order to propel themselves to 21-1.

The critics will continue to bash USU's schedule this season, but there is always something that can be said for a team that passes every test placed in front of them. Outside of a single neutral venue hiccup, the Aggies have done just that.

You could say they earned their respect the old-fashioned way. They didn't do anything too flashy along the way. They simply shut-up and took care of business night-in and night-out until their record was just too good to ignore.

Make no mistake, the Aggies' respect has in no way been given to them this college basketball season. The Utah State Aggies have gotten respect just as any team should get their respect...They earned it.