March 15, 2009
LOGAN, Utah - Utah State men's basketball will make its sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years when the 11th-seeded Aggies take on sixth-seeded Marquette in the first round of the NCAA West Regional on Friday at Taco Bell Arena at Boise, Idaho.
Utah State (30-4 overall, 14-2 WAC) is making it first appearance in the NCAA Tournament in three years, but its sixth in the last 10 years and seventh in the last 12 years. Overall, the Aggies are making their 18th NCAA Tournament appearance. USU's last NCAA Tournament was in 2006, when the Aggies dropped a 75-61 decision to fifth-seeded Washington in the first round.
This is the first time ever that USU has faced Marquette. The Aggies are 6-9 all-time vs. teams from the Big East, last facing a Big East team in 2000 when USU took on Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament, losing 75-67. Marquette is 9-1 all-time vs. teams from the WAC, with New Mexico State the only team to beat the Golden Eagles, 73-69, in 1972.
In its previous 17 appearances, Utah State is 6-19. The last USU NCAA Tournament victory was in 2001 when the Aggies beat Ohio State, 77-68, in overtime, in the first round.
This is USU's second time as a No. 11 seed since the NCAA started seedings in 1980, joining the 1980 Aggies, who lost to Clemson, 76-73. The 11th seed is USU's highest NCAA seed since 1983 when Utah State was a 10th seed.
Utah State is coming off its Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship win with a 72-62 victory over Nevada Saturday night at Reno, Nev., as the Aggies swept the WAC titles after winning their second-straight regular-season WAC championship.
Saturday's win was USU's school-record 30th win of the season, bettering the 2000 and 2001 USU teams that each finished with 28-6 records, going to the NCAA Tournament both seasons. Overall, it is the 25th time in school history that Utah State has won 20 or more games. USU has won 23 or more games in each of the last 10 seasons, which is a school record. Only Gonzaga and Kansas have matched USU's current streak of 10-straight 23 seasons.
Utah State's 30 wins are the second-most wins in the nation this year behind only Memphis (31-3). USU is also one of just five teams in the nation with four or fewer losses joining Connecticut (27-4), Memphis, North Carolina (28-3), and Pittsburgh (28-4).
The Aggies are led by WAC Player of the Year and Tournament MVP Gary Wilkinson, as the senior forward averages 17.1 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. Wilkinson was named first-team all-District 6 by7 the National Association of Basketball Coaches last week.
The winner of the Utah State-Marquette game will play the winner of third-seeded Missouri and 14th-seeded Cornell on Sunday.
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