Utah State men’s basketball fans can rest easy going into the upcoming two games against Boise State knowing that the team’s head coach is here to stay for the foreseeable future.
Craig Smith recently agreed to a contact extension that will keep him coaching the Aggies for five additional seasons after the current one ends. USU Athletic Director John Hartwell first announced the extension during a radio interview last week, and Smith confirmed it Tuesday on a virtual call with media.
“This has been just a phenomenal place to live and a great experience,” Smith said. “So we’re sure excited to continue this journey at Utah State.”
Smith has done wonders with the Aggies since he arrived prior to the 2018 season. The team has qualified for the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years by winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Former guard Sam Merrill is now playing in the NBA, and junior center Neemias Queta may be next.
Smith said he and Hartwell came to terms before the new year.
“Obviously we believe in Craig,” Hartwell said on the radio show. “Every day, literally, that guy amazes me.”
With the Aggies and Smith having some security from a professional standpoint, the team is looking to get some security from a competitive one. After nearly two weeks of not playing a game due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Utah State returns to action Wednesday against a Broncos team that has been atop the Mountain West Conference for practically the entire season.
UTAH STATE AT BOISE STATE
When • Wednesday, 7 p.m. MT
TV • CBSSN
The Aggies have an 11-2 record in the conference, while the Broncos are 12-3. At one point this season, Boise State held an unblemished 10-0 conference record, but have been uneven of late. The Broncos lost back-to-back matchups against Nevada before winning two straight against the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
The two-game series with the Broncos could be what defines the regular season for the Aggies, who are in position to win their first conference championship in three years. While they have been conference tournament winners each of the last two seasons, it would be the first time in Smith’s tenure that USU wins a title in the regular season.
But Smith is cognizant of the fact that prior results put USU in its current position.
“If we hadn’t beaten San Diego State in one of those games, we’re not in this position,” Smith said. “If we would’ve lost to New Mexico, we’re not in this position. If we would’ve swept UNLV, we’d have more of a cushion. So they all count the same.”
The Broncos will allow fans in their arena for the first time this season, and it will be the first time in conference play that the Aggies will see fans at a road game. ExtraMile Arena will allow 900 fans on Wednesday and Friday.
Smith said it’s unclear whether USU will get a chance to make up the three games that were recently postponed. So for now, the focus is on Wednesday for the Aggies.
“These games could have a lot of postseason ramifications, can mean a lot for winning the regular season title and seeding,” Smith said. “But nobody has a crystal ball. Nobody knows how many more games we’re even going to get in. So at the end of the day, we’re going to try to put our best foot forward, play our best game in Game 1 against Boise. And if we get to play Game 2, hopefully we can do the same.”