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It’s the title game matchup of the Mountain West Tournament coming to you live from Sin City. The fourth-seeded San Diego State Aztecs battle the second-seeded Utah State Aggies Saturday night with the winner punching their ticket to March Madness. San Diego State upended #14 Nevada, who was the top seed in the tournament, 65-56, in the semifinals Friday night. Utah State hammered third-seeded Fresno State in their semifinal contest Friday night. The Aztecs own an 11-3 edge in the all-time series: this season, the teams split two meetings with the Aggies taking a 70-54 home triumph in the most recent matchup February 26.
San Diego State Aztecs Seeking March Madness Berth
San Diego State took advantage of the fact that Nevada didn’t have Jordan Caroline, who was second on the team in scoring and their leading rebounder, to get the win. The Aztecs avenged their 28-point loss to the Wolf Pack six days ago and improved to 21-12 on the season. San Diego State led by five at the half and opened the second half on an 8-0 run to go up 42-29 with 18:30 to play only to see Nevada rally. The Aztecs trailed 51-49 with 7:31 to play but went on a 9-0 run over the ensuing seven minutes to seal the win. San Diego State shot 42.6 percent from the field, including six of 13 from three-point range, and held Nevada to 37.9 percent shooting. Devin Watson led the Aztecs with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in the win.
Back-to-back threes?!? In the first minute?! pic.twitter.com/lrzHbjgypP
— Aztec M. Basketball (@Aztec_MBB) March 16, 2019
The Aztecs enter this contest putting up an average of 72.1 points per game on the season. San Diego State puts up 36.1 rebounds per game and passes off 14.6 assists a night on the year. The Aztecs are 70th in scoring defense as they allow 67.5 points a night. Jalen McDaniels is leading the team with 16.3 points plus 8.3 boards per contest. Devin Watson puts up 15.8 points plus 4.2 assists a night, Matt Mitchell chips in 10.3 points a game and Jeremy Hemsley is good for 9.3 points per contest. Jordan Schakel, Nolan Narain, Nathan Mensah and Adam Seiko have to be able to contribute when they are on the floor for the Aztecs to have success. San Diego State shoots 43.9 percent from the field as a team this season. The Aztecs connect on 7.8 triples a night while shooting 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. San Diego State has been solid at the charity stripe, converting 71.5 percent of their chances this season.
Utah State Aggies Look to Win Conference Tournament Title, Improve Seeding
Utah State started strong and didn’t look back as they rolled to the win. The Aggies improved to 27-6 on the season and now look to pick up the conference tournament title to go with the regular season crown. Utah State was up 50-27 at the half and took care of business the rest of the way to earn the victory. The Aggies weren’t challenged in the second half as their lead didn’t drop below 21 in the second half: they led by as many as 35. Utah State shot 48.5 percent from the field, including 13 of 31 from three-point range, and controlled the glass by a 43-29 margin. Sam Merrill led the Aggies with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists in the win.
— USU Men's Hoops (@USUBasketball) March 16, 2019
The Aggies are putting up an average of 79.5 points per game on the season. Utah State puts up an average of 40.2 rebounds per contest and dishes out 17.3 assists a night. The Aggies are 66th in scoring defense as they give up just 67.3 points a night. Sam Merrill leads the team with 21.1 points and 4.3 assists a game. Neemias Queta is the only other player in double figures as he averages 11.8 points plus 8.8 rebounds a night. Brock Miller, Dwayne Brown Jr., John Knight III, Quinn Taylor, Tauriwan Knight and Diogo Brito are solid role players for the Aggies this season. Utah State is shooting 47.5 percent from the floor as a team. The Aggies hit 7.8 treys a night but are hitting 35.5 percent on their shooting from beyond the arc. Utah State is very good at the line as they’re sinking 74.9 percent of their chances on the year.
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The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
These teams split their two meetings this season, each winning at home, and come into this one with some momentum. San Diego State avenged their loss to Nevada six days earlier as their defense did the job for the second straight game in the tournament. The Aztecs are going to need their defense to step up again here as Utah State is dangerous on the offensive end of the floor. The Aggies are also excellent on the glass, which will put pressure on San Diego State. San Diego State needs more from McDaniels, who fouled out Friday night. In the end, Utah State’s depth and offensive prowess gives them the edge to send them to March Madness as the champs of the Mountain West.
Prediction: Utah State Aggies
Full-Game Total Pick
This will be San Diego State’s task: to either generate enough offense to outgun Utah State, or to rely on their defense to try and shut the Aggies down like they did with UNLV and Nevada. This is the ninth title game in the last 11 years for the Aztecs but it’s a stiff challenge to take on. Utah State blitzed Fresno State early and often, which allowed them to give some rest to guys like Merrill and Queta. Meanwhile, the Aztecs went down to the final minute before locking down the win over Nevada. Will that take a toll on San Diego State in this contest?
This one seems to be a game where the Aggies are going to try and push the pace, forcing San Diego State to try and keep up. The Aztecs aren’t an overly deep team and they had to exert a ton of energy to get past Nevada Friday night. Look for this one to squeeze over the total thanks to the Aggies running and gunning, led by Merrill.