Track meet likely, Missouri wary of ‘confident’ Utah State
The last time Utah State coach Ryan Odom coached in the NCAA Tournament, he scored an upset for the ages.
Odom guided No. 16 seed Maryland-Baltimore County to a 74-54 rout of No. 1 seed Virginia in 2018. Now he hopes to capture some of that magic when his No. 10 seed Aggies (26-8) face No. 7 seed Missouri (24-9) on Thursday in a South Region game in Sacramento.
“This team is confident like (UMBC); that team was very confident,” Odom said. “They felt like they could play with anybody regardless of what anybody said.”
This game features two of the highest-scoring teams at the Division I level. Missouri averages 80.1 points per game, which ranks 21st, and Utah State averages 79.1, which ranks 28th.
Utah State went 13-5 in the Mountain West Conference this season and finished two games back of regular-season champion San Diego State. The Aggies reached the title game of the league tournament but fell 62-57 to San Diego State.
Missouri posted an 11-7 record in the Southeastern Conference and finished fourth. The Tigers reached the semifinals of the league tournament and lost to Alabama 72-61.
Both teams prefer a fast offensive pace and launch a lot of 3-point shots. The Aggies average 9.5 makes per game from beyond arc while the Tigers have connected on 9.4 shots per game from 3-point range.
Missouri is led by forward Kobe Brown, who averages 15.8 points per game and shoots 44.7 percent from 3-point range. Utah State is led by guard Steven Ashworth, who averages 16.3 points per game and shoots 44.3 percent from beyond the arc.
Both teams are offensively balanced. The Tigers feature five players averaging 9.5 points or more while the Aggies have five players averaging in double figures.
“Ultimately, I think we’re really happy with where we’re at,” Ashworth said. “We’re going to have a really good matchup with Missouri. … To be able to go out to Sacramento and compete against a team like that is going to be a lot of fun.”
Missouri coach Dennis Gates recently connected with Ryan Odom’s father Dave Odom, a former head coach at Wake Forest and South Carolina. But he had some catching up to do on Ryan’s work at Utah State the last two seasons.
“I have a lot of respect for the Odom family,” Gates said. “Actually, I spoke to his dad probably less than a month ago. (Ryan) does a great job. It’s well documented what coach Odom was able to do with his run the last two, three years. He’s a tremendous coach, a great coach, nothing but respect for he and his program.
“Again, we’re excited to learn more about them as they’re going to learn more about us. That’s the best part of Selection Sunday. Both opponents get to start from scratch.”
Missouri hasn’t won a NCAA Tournament game since 2010. This just the Tigers’ third trip to the event since 2013.
Utah State is making its third NCAA Tournament in the past five years.
–Field Level Media