Utah State Aggies (11-5, 2-3 Big West, 8-0 road)
The defending regular season co-champion Aggies were the consensus pick to finish 2nd in the Big West this season, but a conference-opening loss to Idaho baffled just about everybody. Losses to IPFW and Central Florida are also a bad stain on Utah State, but they piled on a few impressive wins before losing both games last week in Stockton and Northridge. With the season halfway over, they've already lost more games than they did in all of 2003-04. They've been invincible at home, winning every game by double digits and maintaining an average margin of +21.4 points.
The Aggies have the best scoring defense in the Big West, allowing just over 60.1 points per game this season and have an overall scoring margin of +11.6. They are giving up 69.4 points per game in conference play, though. Their team field goal percentage is a conference-leading .522 while their opponents shoot just .407. But again, conference play hasn't been as kind; the Aggies have shot .479 in Big West play. They shoot just under 38% from the three-point line and have a rebound margin of +5.6.
Utah State plays slow on both ends of the court, and takes care of the ball. They average just 12.7 turnovers per game, and force only 12.2. Without a true point guard, they struggled against the high-pressure defense of Northridge, turning it over 17 times.
They can use as many as 11 players in their rotation, but used only 9 against Pacific and Northridge. Despite that, their bench isn't that deep, but this is the Big West… whose is?
The key to Utah State is their big three. Nelson, Carroll, and Harris have scored 62.7% of their points and taken 55.5% of their shots. They've grabbed 55.8% of their rebounds and account for 63.0% of their steals. Taking just one of these three out of the flow of the game or getting them in foul trouble will give the Aggies trouble.
Utah State has won six in a row against Fullerton, the last Titan win coming on January 19th, 2002 in Fullerton. The Titans have not defeated Utah State on the road since 1982.
#32 Spencer Nelson would probably be the Big West Player of the Year if the Aggies were to finish in first place. The 6'8" senior leads them in several categories and also ranks high on the Big West charts. He is 2nd on the team and 5th in the conference in points, averaging 15.2. His rebound average of 8.5 leads the conference, now that Vili Morton and Hardy Asprilla are out of the picture. His 4.88 assists per game is 3rd in the Big West. His field goal percentage of .576 is 4th in the Big West, but still not the highest on Utah State. He has the 7th-best free throw percentage in the Big West, .806, and 3rd-best A/TO ratio, 1.70. He also leads the Aggies in fouls (2.5) and turnovers (2.88).
Nelson has been troubled by bronchitis since mid-December, but has not been held out of any practices or games and is beginning to show signs of his illness on the court. He played his freshman year at Utah State when Bobby Brown was in 8th grade.
Nelson didn't see much of the Titans last season due to injury. He missed the
game in Fullerton entirely and played only 14 minutes off the bench in Logan. He
was 4-for-4 from the field and scored 10 points. He also had 5 rebounds and 3
steals. He did see action against the Titans three times in 2002-03, averaging
12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds in 28.7 minutes, while shooting .786 from the
#20 Jaycee Carroll is one of the top freshmen in the Big West and has started every game for Utah State. The 6'2" guard was born in 1983, the same year as most current NCAA true seniors. His 15.4 season scoring average leads Utah State and is 4th in the Big West. Carroll's also shooting .545, 7th in the conference, and has the best three-point percentage, .488, of any Big West player. He averages 2.56 three-pointers a game, leading USU. For a guard, he's also a gifted rebounder, pulling down 4.4 rebounds per game. He leads the Aggies in steals with 21. His scoring average in conference play has increased to 18.4 points.
Carroll wanted to go to the University of Wyoming, but in one of the biggest
blunders in NCAA history, they asked him to walk-on instead of offering a
scholarship. The four freshman on Wyoming's roster have combined to play in 7
games and have scored 5 points, meaning they've produced about 2.2% of what
Carroll has. He was Wyoming HS Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002, averaging
39.4 points his senior year.
#4 Nate Harris continues to contribute in the Aggie frontcourt. The 6'7" junior is the only USU starter that has not served on a Mormon mission. The arrival of Jaycee Carroll and absence of Mark Brown have hurt his scoring opportunities, but Harris is still scoring an impressive 14.3 points per game on mind-numbing .674 shooting, which leads the Big West and is near the top nationally. Harris is second in rebounding for the Aggies, pulling down 5.6 per game. He has a team-leading 12 blocks, and is not a major scoring threat from outside (1-6).
Harris played both games against the Titans last season. In Logan, he had 9
points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. At Titan Gym, with Nelson out, Harris scored
22 points on 9-of-11 shooting, and pulled down 6 rebounds.
#25 John Neil stepped into the starting small forward spot due to the off-season suspensions and injuries of Jason Williams and Marques Crane. The 6'6" senior has basically been a role player, averaging just 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds while playing 20.2 minutes per game.
Neil came off the bench in both USU/CSUF games last season, totalling 8
points in 31 minutes.
#23 Chris Huber rounds out the starters, as he won the starting point guard job away from David Pak before the game at Pacific. The 6'1" junior played 41 minutes in his first game as a starter. For the year, Huber is averaging 4.1 points and 2.1 assists. He is a dangerous three-point shooter, hitting .378 up to this point. 81.8% of his field goal attempts have been three-pointers; he's only 2-for-10 from inside the arc. Huber's also made 11 of his 13 free throws.
Huber played in both games against CSUF last year and scored 12 points,
shooting 3-for-6 from behind the arc.
#2 David Pak was the starting point guard for the first 14 games before Huber took over. The 6'2" 28-year-old junior never played high school ball, and learned the game in prison. He is the Aggies' 4th-leading scorer at 5.2 points per game and 2nd in assists with 2.2 per game. Pak is shooting .400 from three-point range, but struggles at the free-throw line, where he's only making .533. He was playing over 20 minutes per game, but got only 15 off the bench in the double-overtime game against Pacific and 19 against Northridge. Pak is the latest yield from the pipeline Stew Morrill has established with Saddleback College in Mission Viejo.
#3 Cassiano Matheus gives the Aggies the presence of a big man off the bench. The 6'10" junior averages only 13.6 minutes, but is the team's fifth-leading scorer at 5.1 points per game and 2nd-leading fouler with 33. He has a field goal percentage of .583. Despite his size, Matheus only grabs 1.9 rebounds per game. He has 8 blocks and scored 10 points against Northridge. He is a little soft when playing defense on the inside.
#31 Ian McVey played in every game this year until sitting out against Northridge. The 6'9" senior plays just averages just 5.3 minutes and 1.1 points, but he has blocked 7 shots. He played 11 minutes against the Titans last season, contributing nothing special.
#30 Jason Williams is a former starter who's had some problems this year. The 6'7" senior was already on 12 months probation stemming from a court case in April, then in September he was caught with a marijuana joint in his apartment and suspended from the team. Then a groin injury slowed him down at the start of the season. Williams, who started 27 games last season, has come off the bench in 12 games this year. Utah State claims he's 100 percent, but he's playing 16.8 minutes per game and scoring just 3.2 points. He's shooting just .341 from the field, .154 on threes, and .500 at the free throw line. He is not the same player that scored 12 points against the Titans in Logan last year. Despite his problems, Williams remains the team's best man-on defender and dunker.
#1 Marques Crane was also suspended with Williams for the marijuana incident in September. A foot injury has kept Crane out of the last six games. The 6'4" junior was averaging 5.1 points before it happened.
#21 Calvin Brown is the only true point guard that sees significant playing time for Utah State. The 5'10" senior walk-on averages 10.4 minutes, but sat out against Pacific. He averages 1.7 points and 1.5 assists.
#24 Tyler Williams and #11 Jimmie Edwards are two walk-on point guards who have seen little action this year, combining for for 12 minutes. #5 Robert Cox is a shooting guard who has played in just two games.