On Saturday morning in Reno at the WAC tournament, it was a done deal. Utah State was a "lock," they were going dancing no matter what the outcome of the championship game that night. A few hours later it was the other Aggies in the conference going dancing, the ones from New Mexico State, and suddenly it wasn't such a sure thing.
Fast forward to Sunday, with most of the Utah State faithful still on the road somewhere between Reno and Logan, when the brackets started being announced.
New Mexico State a No. 12 seed? That's a good sign for Utah State, but hope quickly started getting bleak with every coming bubble team.
Florida. They were a bubble team and now they are getting a No. 10 seed?
Minnesota. They just got waxed on national television and are an No. 11?
California. A No. 9 seed? They didn't even have a top 50 win!
Hope was somewhere between slim and none. It was all over but wondering if the NIT game would be at home or away.
Then came the Spokane pod in the South. Greg Gumble starts with "The Aggies..." and hearts start to flutter; could it happen? "...Of Texas A&M." Well of course they were not going to be a No. 5 seed, but that did not stop the hope.
Then vindication. Texas A&M will face Utah State on Friday in Spokane. It will be Aggies versus Aggies. Again. This time it will be in the big dance.
Getting an at-large bid in a small conference is like getting a stay of execution. You never expect it, but you never stop hoping for it to happen.
Now Utah State has a chance to do what it could not on Saturday—beat a fellow Aggie team and make a big splash on the national scene.