March Madness doesn't really transmit via television for Stew Morrill.
The Utah State basketball coach watched other coaches stride the court, other players go up for rebounds, other teams celebrate success in college basketball's most treasured event. Addressing the media Wednesday morning, Morrill didn't say he felt left out - he went with "strange."
"After so many years playing in the postseason, it was a strange feeling," he said. "We're kind of settled in right now."
But still, the venerable Aggie said he didn't look back with regret on bowing out of the postseason — the first time Utah State has not participated in a postseason tournament since his first year in 1999. It was a group decision, he said, not a commandment.
There are some health issues to sort out. Spencer Butterfield will have surgery on his hip, and has at least three months of rehab ahead. Preston Medlin's wrist is healing, Morrill said, and his range of motion is improving.
Danny Berger is progressing, and the team hopes to have him back after he hopefully is approved for a medical redshirt. It's unclear whether Sean Harris will be able to contribute after his rehab for his second ACL injury.
Marcel Davis has an ankle issue that he is trying to work out this offseason - Morrill said he needs "rest."
Morrill said the injury factor was part of it, but so was losing to UT Arlington for a third time. The thought was that the Mavericks would be selected ahead of Utah State thanks to the head-to-head record. That, combined with the fact that the Aggies had already been through the CIT last season, made postseason hopes look dim.
"The situation was such that I think we made the right call," he said. "There's no second thoughts."
UT Arlington did, in fact, make the CIT, but lost in the first round to Oral Roberts.
Reflecting back on the season that was, Morrill said he'd remember it forever.
The Aggies lost four players for the season this year, including top performers Medlin and Kyisean Reed. Morrill has described the year he had as two separate seasons, and continued that description Wednesday.
"You're always going to wonder 'What if?' - what if we had been healthy?" he said. "We were rolling along at 14-2, then we ended up losing those guys. We were definitely a contender at the top of the league. I'm not saying we would've won, but I certainly think we would've been a contender."
But the "second season" for Utah State was not without victories. The Aggies did compile more losses than wins, but Morrill said a win over Idaho on the road and a home win against New Mexico State would stand out to him for years to come.
"Considering everything that went on, we did well," Morrill said. "We stayed extremely competitive. ... If you look at it as two separate seasons, I don't really have any negative thoughts about it."
The team got back to the weight room Monday, and now has shifted gears to next season. Morrill said he would have meetings with players after the Final Four to talk about their development looking ahead to the Mountain West.
"We're excited and optimistic," he said. "We'll find out if we've got the talent level and coaching level to compete in that league."
— Kyle Goon
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