Is Utah basketball back?
Eh, probably not, but they can take a gigantic step in the right direction with a victory over San Diego State tonight.
On the line in tonight's game is not only a chance to take sole control of the top spot in the conference, but also slowly begin to lock down an at-large NCAA bid. With an RPI in the top-15, wins like this will go along way toward putting the Utes back in the Big Dance for the first time in four years. But it's not going to be an easy task, as Utah takes on a team that gave them their worst conference loss of the season. And though the Aztecs have struggled in Salt Lake, their athleticism is tops in the conference and will prove to be a challenge.
So who are the Aztecs?
Well for starters, they're a good team, but not great. They stand at 17-5 on the season and 7-2 in conference play. Their biggest victory, at UNLV, put them in the position they are today, but outside that win and maybe their victory over Utah, there really isn't anything impressive about their schedule. It's a good schedule, but also one a good team should clean up in and that's exactly what the Aztecs have done. In their biggest tests, against the two big Arizona schools, they lost and also own a defeat at home to St. Mary's. That means this game is important to San Diego State's at-large bid, as their RPI is only 46th nationally. So expect them to play like everything is on the line and that mentality will most likely be shared by the Utes.
The Aztecs are led by Kyle Spain, who averages 14.5 points per game. He's also the team's leading rebounder. Yet in their nine point victory over Utah back in January, he was held to only nine points on 3 of 13 shooting. San Diego State didn't miss his scoring, though, as Ryan Amoroso stepped up with 17. Which shows you just how talented this team is all around and if the Utes expect to win by just shutting down one player, well it probably won't happen.
It should be a good game, hopefully it's extremely competitive, but most importantly, here's to a Utah victory and a return to the top of the conference.