Oregon Ducks (19-14) vs Utah State Aggies (18-15)
When: 3/15/2022, 6:00 PM
Where: Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, Logan, UT
After enduring some nail-biting rumors that claimed Oregon had been “on the bubble” for even National Invitational Tournament (NIT) inclusion, the Ducks open play today in that tournament at Utah State. The Aggies are out of the Mountain West Conference where they finished the regular season in 7th place. Oregon’s seeming “on paper” higher quality team has taken some hits as Will Richardson has been out since before the Pac-12 tournament, and N’Faly Dante did not travel with the team due to a “non-Covid illness.”
The Ducks have won their first game in 10 of their 12 NIT appearances, going 14 - 12 overall in all tournament appearances. Oregon’s best NIT finish came in their first appearance in 1975 when they beat St. Johns for Third Place. Utah State sports 9 NIT appearances, also winning Third in their first appearance, which came in 1960. Overall, the Aggies are 2 - 9 in the NIT and have lost eight straight first-round games; however, Utah State’s last appearance was in 2008.
The Aggies have been led in scoring by Senior forwards Justin Bean (17.7 ppg) and Brandon Horvath (13.8 ppg). The two also lead the team in rebounding, combining for more than 16 boards a game. Bean is also a good 3-point shooter, making almost 50 percent on 97 attempts, but Sophomore guard Steven Ashworth leads the team in attempts with 148 and is shooting a respectable .378. The Aggies have averaged 73.5 points per game while holding opponents to 66.4. Utah State earned a win at Oklahoma and also beat Portland State but struggled in Conference play, finishing with a record of 8 - 10.
With Richardson and now Dante out, others are going to have to step up for the Ducks tonight. At full strength, this appears to be a game that Oregon should win, although the Ducks have certainly endured their share of struggles with teams they appear they should beat. Join ATQ in the comments and let’s see if the Ducks can add to their list of winning first-round NIT performances.