What is the deal with Utah State?
Why is the program so good year in and year out, but never makes it anywhere?
Will this year be any different?
The Aggies are currently ranked No. 22 in the ESPN Poll with a record of 20-1. But, what's to say that this year will be any different from years in the past? Can the Aggies firmly believe that their 73 points-per-game average this season will produce more than their 69 points-per-game average did in 2003-04?
Utah State flaunted a very similar team in 2003-04 to the team that they have now, statistically at least. Also note that the Aggies have won 20-plus games in each of the past seven seasons. The 2003-04 crew may have posted fewer points per game than this year's squad, but both teams scored a similar amount of points per shot. This year's team puts 1.42 points on the board for every shot it takes. Compare that to the 1.44 points per shot that the 2003-04 team scored.
In comparison, rebounds, assists, turnovers, field-goal percentage, and free-throw percentage are all in the same vicinity. The 2003-04 squad was a better three-point shooting team, at 40.1 percent, compared to this year's 37.3 percent.
So, here's why Aggies fans are nervous.
The 2003-04 team went 25-2 in the regular season. Hmmm...sounds pretty similar to the 20-1 record that Utah State currently possesses. However, the 2003-04 team lost in the first round of the conference tournament and missed out on receiving an at-large bid from the NCAA Tournament committee.
Instead of playing in the NCAA Tournament, the Aggies played host to Hawaii in the first round of the NIT. The team that once looked like it had Sweet 16 potential disappointed the home crowd with an 85-74 loss to the Warriors.
This is not to say that Aggies fans should not have hope. That's not at all what I'm saying here.
Compared to 2003-04, Utah State is in a traditionally better conference. The Aggies proved that they were too much of a mid-major powerhouse to compete with the Cal-State Fullertons and Long Beach States of the Big West, so the NCAA moved them to the Western Athletic Conference—the conference that flaunted Nevada, a team that had also defined itself as a mid-major threat. Playing in a better conference means that the Aggies are beating better teams.
Even though the Aggies are playing in a better conference now, and are undefeated as of now, they lack any impressive wins.
They may be 20-1, with double-digit wins against Nevada and Boise State, the next best teams in the WAC, but, seriously, who have they beaten to prove that they are worth the rank?
OK, great, they beat Weber State by 26 points. Weber State happens to be the only team on the Aggies' schedule that is in sole possession of first place of its conference. Wow, they beat the best Big 12 team?!
Oops, typo. Yeah, Weber State is in the Big Sky.
Now that Utah is tied for first in the Mountain West Conference, the Aggies' two-point victory looks good.
The question may arise: Who beat the Aggies? The answer: Brigham Young.
The loss to the Cougars is the epitome of a game that a team like the Aggies really needed to win. BYU has a very small chance of receiving an at-large bid for the tourney and is most likely going to be an NIT team this year.
Utah State really needed the score of that game to be reversed in order to prove that it is really worthy of its rank.
The Aggies still have a chance to show the voters how good they really are during Feb. 22's bracket-buster game against St. Mary's.
With or without Patty Mills, the Gaels will be a tough match, especially on the road. Both teams will be trying to show their worth.
It's been a long time since the Aggies won fewer than 20 games in a season. However, the 20-win seasons have not turned into postseason success. Utah State has not won an NCAA Tournament game in the last seven seasons. They haven't even won an NIT game in that span either, despite winning 20-plus games in each year.
Maybe this year will be different, but the Aggies are not yet proven.