Utah State still hoping to get Butterfield, Medlin healthy, plus WAC seeding notes
The big theme this week: Utah State is trying to get healthy.
A source close to the program described Spencer Butterfield as "day-to-day" with pain in his right hip. His fall on Thursday against Louisiana Tech further irritated a chronic injury he's had in that hip, and he's trying to manage the pain. The Aggies would like him back as soon as possible, but will settle for whenever he's feeling well enough to practice and play.
Preston Medlin, who has been out since mid-January with a wrist fracture, is more of a question. He's been described as "week-to-week" with his injury, which is healing more slowly because of low blood flow to the area. Of course, there's only two weeks left for the regular season and WAC tournament, so that makes it seem less likely he could return.
There's only two more regular season games left: Texas State and UT-San Antonio in the Spectrum. Both teams are languishing in the bottom half of the standings, so the Aggies have a good shot at a win even if neither Butterfield or Medlin can make it back this week. But the victories won't affect the seeding for the WAC tournament in Las Vegas next week ...
Aggies locked in at No. 5 seed
When the WAC tournament starts, the Aggies know when they'll take the floor at the Orleans Arena: Thursday, March 14 at 9:30 p.m. MT as a No. 5 seed. Utah State will have some time to prepare for their match-up - either against UT-Arlington or New Mexico State.
Utah State can catch up with UTA, assuming they win twice and the Mavericks lose twice. But UTA would own the tiebreaker and be a No. 4 seed by virtue of winning head-to-head match-ups. It doesn't matter anyway, because the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds play each other, so it would be the same match-up at the same time.
The Aggies can't drop below No. 5 - Idaho is three games back with two games to go.
The Aggies will be watching the standings above them. UT-Arlington has a chance to vault into the No. 3 seed with a sweep this week and New Mexico State faltering. The benefit of a higher seed is not being in the same half of the bracket as Louisiana Tech, even if Utah State might be considered a vastly weakened 5-seed at this point with injuries.
Assuming Utah State can win its contests, it would play the late game three straight nights, including an 9:30 p.m. MT semifinal contest on Friday and a 9 p.m. MT championship on Saturday. Obviously, winning is a big assumption.
Expect the Aggies to go for wins 20 and 21 this week against the Bobcats and the Roadrunners. They'll be trying to build up momentum into the tournament itself, while trying to work out kinks in the lineup with Ben Clifford at the 3-spot and Marcel Davis and TeNale Roland playing up to 40 minutes.
They'll want to win, but not necessarily at the risk of injuring more starters. It will be interesting to see how the coaching staff manages Jarred Shaw's minutes this week.
Utah State women could wrap up top spot
If you're also looking to catch the Utah State women, that seeding is still up in the air. There's a decent chance the Aggies could still get a No. 1 seed, even though they're a half-game behind Seattle.
The Redhawks have one game left against third-place Idaho, having won the first game in Moscow. That's arguably a tougher match-up than Texas State (tied in last) and UTSA (tied for fourth) for the Aggies. Utah State beat both squads early this season in the Spectrum, but the challenge this time would be going on the road.
If the Utah State women's team ends up a 2-seed, probably more likely, they'll play the winner of a first-round game on Wednesday at 3:30 MT. If the Aggies can get the No. 1 seed, they'll play at 7 p.m. MT. Whichever seed they can swipe determines which half of the bracket they're in.
This is the men's bracket, and this is the women's bracket if you want to check out times. Keep in mind the bracket uses Las Vegas local time, or PT.
Kyle Goonkgoon@sltrib.comTwitter: @kylegoon