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Mountain West Conference Championship Game Preview: Utah State vs San Diego State

The third edition of this game should be a fun one.

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament- Utah State vs San Diego State Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

For the third consecutive year, Utah State and San Diego State will meet up for the Mountain West Conference Championship game, where the winner will get an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

Each team is in a different place in regards to the NCAA Tournament. San Diego State is comfortably in the field, the result of today’s game will likely have an impact on the Aztecs’ seeding. Currently, Joe Lunardi of ESPN has San Diego State on the seven seed line, while many others have them in as an eight or nine seed.

On the other hand for Utah State, it is the same story the past couple of seasons. The Aggies entered the tournament out of many brackets. After Boise State’s opening round loss and Utah State beating Colorado State last night, the Aggies have snuck into some brackets as one of the last teams in.

Looking at both team’s resumes, San Diego State has the advantage out of conference with wins against UCLA, St. Mary’s and Arizona State when the Sun Devils were ranked. Meanwhile, Utah State does not have any good non-conference wins, they also have bad losses against South Dakota State and UNLV.

The Aggies picked up their best win away from home yesterday when they defeated Colorado State. Utah State does have a sweep of San Diego State this season, which is something that rarely happens to the Aztecs and it is always tough to beat a team for a third time.

When both teams played in mid-January, the Azetcs were without Matt Mitchell for the second game after he limped off the floor late in the first game with a knee injury. It was not a serious injury and Mitchell has returned to full form, as we saw last night when he scored 15 straight points in the second half for San Diego State.

Mitchell is a key piece for San Diego State, but the Aztecs are deep and have received contributions from everyone all season to get to where they are at now. Jordan Schakel, Trey Pulliam, Nathan Mensah, and Terell Gomez have each had their moments this year and give the Aztecs plenty options to attack you on offense.

The same could be said for Utah State, who for the last two seasons relied heavily on Sam Merrill to win those conference championships. But now they have a solid core that can contribute every night and not have to rely on one guy.

As always, Neemias Queta is absolutely dominant in the paint, when he is going on both ends of the floor, it fuels Utah State and takes them to another level. Brock Miller and Justin Bean have developed nicely into key contributors in the starting line up. Newcomers Marco Anthony and Rollie Worter have been great additions and each bring something to the table for the Aggies.

Looking at the game, San Diego State will have revenge on its mind, not only did Utah State sweep them last year, but the Aggies have defeated the Aztecs in the last two championship games.

Expect a defensive battle between both teams, as in their last three meetings, only once has a team scored more than 59 points (Utah State scored 64 in a win this season). Points will be at a premium, so the team that takes care of the ball should have an advantage. The more physical team should also have an edge too.

Both teams held their semifinal opponents in check. As the Aztecs held the dynamic duo of Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge for Nevada to just 10 of 30 shooting. And Utah State held Colorado State to just 25% shooting in the second half of its late night victory yesterday.

Prediction

Utah State will have a quick turnaround after playing at 9:30 p.m. PT last night and having to play in less than 24 hours at 3 p.m. PT. I think they come out a bit slow and San Diego State takes advantage of it. The stars for San Diego State, Schakel and Mitchell should have big games and carry the Aztecs to the win and Utah State will have to sweat out Selection Sunday. My Prediction: San Diego State 67, Utah State 63.

Follow along in the game thread right here on the site, and check back in here and on social media for more coverage of today’s championship game.