Utah State basketball: Aggies face tough WAC tournament road
Spencer Butterfield was having trouble saying exactly how he felt about earning all-WAC honors Sunday.
Yes, he was happy to be a second-team all-conference player. Yes, he liked what it said about his team. But it seemed odd to be getting a postseason award when there's so much work left to finish for Utah State.
"It's a nice accolade and I appreciate it, but I'm not really into that, I guess," Butterfield said. "I'm not super stoked about it. I'm more worried about winning the WAC tournament right now."
Injuries to some of its stars kept Utah State (21-9, 11-7) from having the regular season it hoped for, but all seasons begin anew in March. The Aggies have a three-game season ahead of them in the WAC tournament starting Thursday, and they don't intend to waste their chance.
No one's really arguing that winning out in Las Vegas is an uphill battle. Besides the well-publicized depth issues the program faces, almost everyone is new to the event. Both Butterfield and Jarred Shaw, the two all-WAC honorees on the team, didn't play in the tournament last season.
The only ones with experience in the WAC tournament are Ben Clifford and Jordan Stone, who played extended minutes in last season's loss to Louisiana Tech. But Clifford says that won't necessarily hold back the team.
"I definitely think we can make it work," he said. "The guys know it's win or go home, and that's something they've done their whole lives. We're down there to win some games."
If Utah State wants to go deep this postseason, it will face a road of redemption. It shares half of the bracket with two teams that have had its number.
The Aggies' opening opponent, UT Arlington, beat them in both meetings this year, dealing the team arguably its worst defeats. The Mavericks flustered Utah State with pressure in the contests, most recently winning 61-46 on March 2 at Arlington.
If the Aggies manage to avoid a season sweep by UT Arlington, it's likely Louisiana Tech will be lurking in the semifinals. Utah State has fallen in the last three meetings to the Bulldogs dating back to last season's upset in the WAC tournament.
Utah State took off practice Monday to recover and rest for the possibility of playing three games in three nights. The Aggies have had a lot of time to think about how they match up against the WAC's best, and they want another shot.
"I feel like a lot of people have counted us out," Clifford said. "It doesn't affect us either way. We feel like we can make a run."
WAC tournament schedule
Orleans Arena, Las Vegas, Nev.
All times MDT
• No. 7 Texas State v. No. 10 Seattle, 7 p.m.
• No. 8 San Jose State v. No. 9 UT San Antonio, 9:30 p.m.
• No. 3 New Mexico State v. No. 6 Idaho, 1 p.m.
• No. 2 Denver v. Texas State/Seattle, 3:30 p.m.
• No. 1 Louisiana Tech v. SJSU/UTSA, 7 p.m.
• No. 4 UT Arlington v. No. 5 Utah State, 9:30 p.m.
• Semifinal 1, 7 p.m.
• Semifinal 2, 9:30 p.m.
• Final, 9 p.m. (ESPNU)