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Utah State joins San Diego State as MW teams in NCAA Tournament

Updated March 14, 2021 - 9:04 pm

It was a stressful 24 hours for Utah State as the Aggies waited to see what the NCAA Tournament bracket revealed after failing to secure an automatic bid.

Turns out, they had nothing to worry about.

Utah State, which lost to San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament championship game Saturday at the Thomas &Mack Center, received an at-large bid when brackets were announced Sunday.

The Aggies won’t even need to play an opening-round game, which are reserved for the final four at-large teams.

The Mountain West is one of 11 conferences to get more than one bid. It’s the third consecutive NCAA Tournament in which multiple MW teams have been chosen.

Utah State (20-8) received a No. 11 seed in the South Region and will play Texas Tech (17-10) on Saturday.

“When I saw our name, I just felt a sense of joy and accomplishment,” Utah State center Neemias Queta told the Deseret News. “But at the same time, we want to make sure we do whatever we have to do to have a good run in the tournament. Make sure we go there to win.

“We’re happy, but we’re not satisfied.”

There are connections between the schools. Texas Tech football coach Matt Wells is an alumnus and former coach at Utah State.

Aggies guard Marco Anthony transferred from Virginia and was on the team but did not play in the 2019 championship game win over Texas Tech. Guard Matt Mooney helped that Red Raiders team reach the title game after transferring from South Dakota, where he played for current Utah State coach Craig Smith.

The Aztecs are a No. 6 seed and will play Syracuse on Friday in the Midwest Region. San Diego State probably would have been in a much better position had last year’s tournament been played, as the Aztecs were 30-2 and had national title aspirations.

“It was disappointing to no end not to be able to go to the tournament last year,” San Diego State coach Brian Dutcher said from Indianapolis, where his team arrived early Sunday and was in quarantine. “But now we have to make up for lost ground. We have to say we’re going to win for ourselves, but also find a way to win for those guys who didn’t get to come last year and try to make the most of every opportunity.”

San Diego State and Utah State were the only Mountain West teams selected for the field of 68, but Colorado State is on standby.

The Rams are the second alternate to the field. Should any team from a multiple-bid conference be forced out of the tournament because of COVID-19 protocols, replacement teams will be inserted from that list.

Should a team from a one-bid league be forced to withdraw, a team from its conference would be selected. No replacements will be made after 3 p.m. Tuesday.

For now, Colorado State is a No. 1 seed in the 16-team National Invitation Tournament in Dallas. Boise State, which has lost four straight games, is also in the NIT field.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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