Utah State basketball are preseason favorites to repeat as Mountain West Conference champs

(Eli Lucero | The Herald Journal via AP) Utah State coach Craig Smith celebrates with fan on the court after Utah State defeated No. 12 Nevada 81-76 in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 2, 2019, in Logan, Utah.

The Utah State men’s basketball team already has plenty of buzz surrounding it, and that’s before any games have been played.

The media unanimously picked the Aggies to win the Mountain West Conference championship, the team announced Tuesday. USU becomes the first in league history to be a unanimous pick. The team won the title last season by beating San Diego State in the title game.

“The Mountain West has a rich tradition of excellence in men’s basketball,” second-year head coach Craig Smith said in a news release. “It is humbling to be the first MW program to be unanimously ranked as the preseason favorites to win the MW championship.”

Senior guard Sam Merrill and sophomore center Neemias Queta also received preseason accolades. Merrill was named Preseason Player of the Year, and both players were named to the preseason All-Mountain West team.

Merrill was the 2019 MW Player of the Year as well as the MVP of the conference tournament. He led the Aggies in scoring last season, averaging 20.9 points per game.

Queta declared for the NBA Draft in April but later pulled out, opting to say with USU. He was invited to NBA Draft Combine and even worked out for the Utah Jazz.

While with Portugal for the FIBA Under-20 European Championship, Queta suffered a knee injury that did not require surgery. The center finished last season as MW Freshman and Defensive Player of the Year.

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