As if it didn’t feel like March already, Utah State has punched its ticket to the 2020 NCAA Tournament after upsetting San Diego State and winning the Mountain West Tournament on Saturday evening. It couldn’t have happened in more thrilling fashion.
The Aggies came into the conference tournament right on the NCAA Tournament bubble, with little room for error. But rather than leaving their fate in the selection committee’s hands, Utah State’s Sam Merrill decided to punch his team’s ticket himself.
Tied at 56-56 with just a few seconds remaining in the game, Merrill drained a deep three – with a SDSU defender right in his face – to take down the presumed No. 1 seeded Aztecs and win the conference tournament.
Merrill was the hero of the day, but not all due to his game-winning shot. The 6-foot-5 guard dropped 27 points on 10-of-22 shooting and grabbed six boards. But of course, it’s the game-winning three that’ll be remembered for a long time in Utah State history. Check out Merrill’s clutch shot below:
Super Sam Merrill! pic.twitter.com/YjjpjWtOeH
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) March 8, 2020
The Aggies are the first team this season to earn an automatic tournament bid. The loss could also have a huge impact for the Aztecs, who may fall down to the two-seed line with this second loss of the season. Combined with Baylor’s loss today, and it may open the door for a team like Dayton to sneak out a one-seed.
It’s certainly been quite the turn-of-events for this Utah State team which came into the day with just a 26 percent chance to get in the tournament as an at-large, according to ESPN’s Paul Sabin.
But now it’s official – the Aggies are going dancing.