Utah State men's basketball will be making its 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance all-time, including its 11th in the last 24 years, when the 10th-seeded Aggies face seventh-seeded Missouri in the first round of the South Region on Thursday, March 16, in Sacramento, California.
Game times and broadcast information for all NCAA Tournament games will be announced Sunday night.
Utah State will be playing an NCAA Tournament game in Sacramento for the second time in program history as the 12th-seeded Aggies lost to fifth-seeded Maryland 82-68 in 1988.
Both Utah State and Missouri began their 2022-23 campaigns by winning their first nine games.
Utah State is receiving an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament for just the fourth time in school history, joining the 2006, 2010 and 2021 teams. The 2006 and 2010 teams were both 12-seeds, while the 2021 team was also a 10-seed.
Utah State (26-8 overall, 13-5 Mountain West) is making its third NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five years (2019, 2021, 2023) and last won a game in the NCAA Tournament in 2001, when the 12th-seeded Aggies recorded a 77-68 overtime win against fifth-seeded Ohio State in the first round. USU also earned the Mountain West's automatic bid to the 2020 NCAA Tournament before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Utah State has played in the NCAA Tournament 14 previous times since seedings started in 1980 and this is the third time it has been a 10th seed. Overall, USU has been listed as an eighth seed once (2019), a 10th seed three times (1983, 1988, 2023), an 11th seed three times (1980, 2009, 2021), a 12th seed six times (1998, 2000, 2001, 2006, 2010, 2011), a 14th seed once (2005) and a 15th seed once (2003).
Utah State is coming off its fourth Mountain West Championship game appearance in the last five seasons, losing to top-seeded and 20th-ranked San Diego State, 62-57, Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas, Nevada, snapping USU's seven-game win streak and denying the Aggies of a third MW Tournament title. USU began the tournament with a 91-76 win against sixth-seeded New Mexico in the quarterfinals and then posted a 72-62 win against second-seeded Boise State in the semifinals.
Entering the NCAA Tournament, Utah State has an NCAA Men's Basketball NET Ranking of 19, an overall strength of schedule of 69, 12 wins away from home with a 6-4 road record and a 6-2 mark on neutral courts, and a 2-5 record against Quad 1 teams with a pair of wins against Boise State. USU also has a 9-1 record against Quad 2 opponents, a 13-0 record against Quad 3 opponents, and a 1-2 record against Quad 4 opponents.
This will be the first time that Utah State and Missouri will be playing one another in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, the series is tied at 1-1 as USU posted an 87-81 home win against the Tigers during the 1967-68 season, while UM notched a 97-87 home win the following season.
Missouri, who is ranked 25th in the nation in the latest Associated Press poll, is 24-9 on the season and tied for fourth in the Southeastern Conference after posting an 11-7 league mark. The Tigers, who are 8-6 away from home this season, have won five of their last six games heading into the NCAA Tournament and lost to Alabama 72-61 in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. Missouri is led by senior forward Kobe Brown, who is averaging 15.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while graduate guard D'Moi Hodge is averaging 14.8 points and graduate guard DeAndre Gholston is averaging 10.7 points per game.
This will be just the second time that Utah State has played a team from the Southeastern Conference in the NCAA Tournament as it lost to seventh-seeded Vanderbilt 80-77 in the first round in 1988.
Utah State is one of just 15 teams in the nation that have five players averaging double figures in scoring this season in junior guard Steven Ashworth, a first-team all-Mountain West selection, graduate forward Taylor Funk, junior guard Max Shulga, an honorable mention all-MW selection, graduate forward Dan Akin, the MW's Sixth Man of the Year, and senior guard Sean Bairstow.
Ashworth is averaging 16.3 points, 4.5 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 33.1 minutes per game, while shooting 46.2 percent (162-of-351), including 44.3 percent (109-of-246) from 3-point range, and 87.8 (122-of-139) from the free throw line. Funk is averaging 13.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.7 blocks in 30.5 minutes per game, while shooting 45.1 percent (158-of-350), including 37.8 percent (79-of-209) from 3-point range, and 90.0 percent (45-of-50) at the free throw line. Shulga is averaging 11.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 0.8 steals in 31.1 minutes per game, while shooting 43.2 percent (123-of-285), including 36.9 percent (55-of-149) from 3-point range, and 82.6 perecnt (109-of-132) from the free throw line. Akin is averaging 12.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 26.9 minutes per game, while shooting 66.7 percent (140-of-210) from the field and 70.8 percent (126-of-178) at the free throw line. And Bairstow is averaging 10.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 31.4 minutes per game, while shooting 46.9 percent (143-of-305), including 39.0 percent (32-of-82) from 3-point range, and 54.8 percent (34-of-62) at the free throw line.
Ashworth and Funk were also both named to the Mountain West all-tournament team. Ashworth averaged 16.3 points, 2.7 assists, 2.0 steals and 2.0 rebounds per game, while shooting 41.7 percent (15-of-36) from the field, including 37.5 percent (9-of-24) from 3-point range, and 76.9 percent (10-of-13) at the free throw line. Funk averaged 14.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 blocks per game, while shooting 45.2 percent (14-of-31) from the field, including 36.4 percent (8-of-22) from 3-point range, and 88.9 percent (8-of-9) at the free throw line.
Utah State head coach Ryan Odom is 44-24 (.647) in his two seasons at Utah State and 170-105 (.618) in 10 seasons as a collegiate head coach. Odom is coaching in the NCAA Tournament for the second time as he was the head coach at UMBC in 2018 when the Retrievers became the first-ever 16-seed to win a first round game as it posted a 74-54 victory against top overall seed Virginia.
Utah State has three players on its current roster with NCAA Tournament experience as Ashworth and Shulga both played against Texas Tech in 2021, as Ashworth had three rebounds and two assists in 16 minutes, while Shulga played one minute. Akin was a member of UMBC's 2018 team when the Retrievers became the first-ever 16-seed to win a first round game as it posted a 74-54 victory against top overall seed Virginia. Akin started and played 22 minutes against Virginia, as he had two points, two rebounds and one assist.
The winner of the Utah State-Missouri game will play the winner of second-seeded Arizona and 15th-seeded Princeton on Saturday, March 18.
Fans should stay tuned to www.UtahStateAggies.com as well as its social media platforms at @USUBasketball for complete NCAA Tournament information, including game time announcement.
Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations
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