A fun battle of teams out West, MWC tournament champion Utah State gets Pac-12 regular season champ Washington. The winner likely faces No. 1 UNC in the Midwest Region.
Utah State finished with a 28-6 record and a 15-3 mark in the Mountain West. The Aggies scored the league’s auto-bid by knocking off New Mexico, Fresno State and San Diego State in consecutive days to take home the conference tournament title. They also took down Nevada in early March. They’re led by star guard Sam Merrill, who averages 21.2 points per game.
The Washington Huskies return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011. Last year’s hiring of longtime Syracuse assistant Mike Hopkins has really paid off; the Jim Boeheim disciple has won back-to-back Pac-12 Coach of the Year awards, and this year, picked up a regular season conference championship. The Huskies lost in the conference tournament title game to Oregon, handing the Ducks an unexpected bid, but they are still dancing at 26-8 overall. Now, Washington fans hope the 2-3 Zone that Hopkins brought from Central New York has the same effect in March that it has in recent years for the Orange. The Huskies sport a number of impressive players, including the sharp-shooting Jaylen Nowell, who averages 16.2 points on 50-percent shooting, and is nearly 44-percent from three, and athletic forward Noah Dickerson (12.2 points, 7.4 rebounds per game).
— Washington Men's Basketball (@UW_MBB) March 17, 2019
Date: Friday, March 22
Time: 6:50 p.m. ET
TV Channel: TNT
Location: Nationwide Arena, Columbus, OH
Announcers: Brian Anderson / Chris Webber // Allie LaForce
Prediction: Utah State flew under the radar this year, in large part due to the hype surrounding Nevada, but their season wasn’t far off from the Wolf Pack’s, and they beat them in a head-to-head match-up and survived a tough MWC Tournament.
The advanced numbers like the Aggies here, but I will take Washington. Over the last decade, we’ve seen what kind of damage a good 2-3 Zone can do in March against teams that don’t see it. Hopkins learned the defense from the best, and has some serious athletes to run it, even if this team doesn’t blow you away every game.