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Poke Basketball Preview & Prediction: Utah State Aggies

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament- Wyoming Cowboys vs Utah State Aggies Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

What: Wyoming Cowboys @ Utah State Aggies

When: Saturday, January 15th, 7:00 p.m. MT

Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan, UT

Line: Wyoming +5 ½ (via William Hill SB)

Series: The Cowboys and Aggies have met a total of 37 times with the Cowboys posting an overall record of 17-20 against their arch-rivals. The Cowboys have gone 3-7 in their last 10 meetings against the Aggies and haven’t beat them since the 2018 season. The Pokes will look to put an end to that streak come Saturday night.

The Wyoming Cowboys will play basketball for the first time in 2022 on Saturday against their rivals from Utah State. The Utah State Aggies hold a current record of 10-6 after falling to Colorado State this past Wednesday in Fort Collins, 77-72. While the Aggies have only had two conference games postponed due to COVID-19 complications thus far, the Cowboys have yet to compete in one due to the very same reason. Wyoming finished off early non-conference play with a solid record of 11-2, but haven’t competed in a game since Christmas Day.

What to expect from Utah State

Utah State is led primarily by a few upperclassmen in Forwards Justin Bean, Brandon Horvath, and Guard Rylan Jones. Bean is the catalyst for the Aggie offense. He’s currently leading the team in points per game (19.6) and rebounds (10.2), providing Utah State plenty of versatility with his scoring abilities. Horvath is the second leading scorer, averaging 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds, respectively. As for Jones he leads the team in assists per game (5.6) and works as the main facilitator on offense, though the Aggies do play a good brand of all-around team basketball. Utah State ranks 62nd in NET rankings, one of the highest among Wyoming opponents thus far, and average 77.7 points per game while allowing just under 70. The Aggies have stumbled out of the gate to begin conference play with losses to Air Force and Colorado State, but it doesn’t mean they won’t compete well against a Wyoming team that hasn’t played in a game since December 25th.

What to expect from Wyoming

It’s not very easy to predict exactly what to expect from Wyoming in this matchup because there are a lot of “firsts” involved. It’ll be Wyoming’s first time competing in Mountain West Conference play. It will also be their first actual contest in nearly one month and their first time against one of their top conference rivals. Before their hiatus, Wyoming had played well against teams they were supposed to. They didn’t, however, play well at all against their top-tier opponents. And with nearly three weeks off, there should no doubt be some rust shown on Saturday night at Dee Glen Spectrum. As a team, Wyoming averages 77.5 points per game while limiting opponents to just 63.1. I still expect solid performances from team leaders Graham Ike, Wyoming’s leading scorer and rebounder (19.5 pts/8.4 rebs), and Hunter Maldonado, the team’s leader in assists and steals (5.9 asts/1.3 stls), but it’s hard for me to believe the team is going to be able to shoot as efficiently as they have and compete for all four quarters against a well-oiled Utah State roster.

Prediction:

Once again, this is a hard game to predict given the circumstances of Wyoming, but I do think even with their best effort, that they lack the depth and fall just short on Saturday night. Utah State is 1-2 in conference play but they’re playing at home and are the more balanced and prepared group to the casual observer. If I am underestimating Jeff Linder’s ability to prepare his team and game-plan effectively in this one, I will be more than thrilled. But for now, I have to side with the team that’s played more games and isn’t coming off of a three-week hiatus. I’ll give the Aggies the edge here.

Score:

Utah State 72

Wyoming 66