Utah State Aggies
Overall Rank: #49
Conference Rank: #2 WAC
2006-07: 23-12, 9-7, 4th
2006-07 postseason: NIT
Only four players return who played last year at Utah State. So why is USU ranked so high with a trip to the NCAA projected? Well, they are last team in the NCAAs, but three of those guys headed back to Logan were starters. A huge number of newcomers bring some cohesiveness concerns, but Coach Stew Morrill will put an end to those concerns soon.
Chaz Spicer ranked second on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game. The power forward could step out and hit the long ball occasionally and his offense would be missed if the Aggies did not have a bunch of guys ready to take over. The other lost starter is wing Durrall Peterson. Replacing his 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game at the small forward position is a bigger concern. Chris Session, Arvydas Vaitiekus, Michael Earl and O.J. Harrison will not be back next season.
Utah State could field a couple teams from this list, so we will start with the point guards. Desmond Stephens and Jaxon Myaer will look for some minutes off the bench. Stephens, a transfer from Southeastern Illinois Junior College, will likely get a majority of the minutes over Myaer. Stephens is amazingly quick and can hit the long ball with consistency. On the wings Tyler Newbold, Pooh Williams, Brad Brown and DeUndrae Spraggins are the newcomers. Newbold, a 6-4 freshman, will need some time to adjust after spending the last two years on an LDS Church Mission. Williams is a great scorer and has plenty of potential; however it is Spraggins who has the experience. The 6-3 junior averaged 11.3 points and 4.8 rebounds last year at Paris Junior College in Texas and is a solid shooter. Both will battle for the starting small forward position. The power forward position has the most talent among the newcomers. Gary Wilkinson averaged 18.5 points and 8.1 rebounds last year at Salt Lake Community College. The 6-9, 240 pound junior has the size, strength and experience to be a huge difference maker in the WAC. Tai Wesley and Matt Formisano are returning after two year LDS Church Missions. Wesley is a tough, undersized forward and could see some quality minutes if he is in game shape. Last year there was not a true center to be found on the roster. This year, there are two. Brayden Bell played seven games for Ohio State two years ago before opting to transfer. Bell is a good scorer and can step outside and hit the jumper, but if his defense has not improved, he may find himself on the bench. Modou Niang has plenty of potential, but his skills are raw. In time he will be really good, but do not expect much from him yet.
Who to Watch:
There are a couple decent teams right there, but we still do have those four players returning to talk about. The most important is the best scorer from a somewhat major conference that you have never heard of…Jaycee Carroll. The 6-2 shooting guard led the WAC averaging 21.3 points per game. And for some reason everybody was talking about Nick Fazekas instead. Well you will hear a lot more about Carroll this year. He is a terrific, and more importantly smart, shooter who hit nearly 53 percent of his shots last year. That is almost as good as Fazekas and Fazekas placed the ball in the basket for most of his shots. Carroll took 5.5 long balls per game and knocked down 2.4 of them. The guy who will get the probable WAC Player of the Year the ball is Kris Clark. Clark is not flashy and he will not do much scoring, but he does take care of the ball and find his open teammates.
The biggest asset for Utah State is having a true center. Last year Stephen DuCharme, who is generously listed at 6-8, was manning the center position. This year he will be at the four and that should help him improve on his 10.2 points per game. Nick Hammer also returns after coming off the bench in all 35 contests a year ago. He will battle for the starting small forward job against a handful of newcomers, but Hammer will at least bring some experience in the program to the table. Coach Morrill is a vastly underappreciated coach who will always have his team well prepared. By the time we get to January, all 11 newcomers will know their place on the team and work well with the returning seniors and that spells trouble for the rest of the conference.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Kris Clark, Senior, Guard, 3.5 points per game
Jaycee Carroll, Senior, Guard, 21.3 points per game
Nick Hammer, Senior, Forward, 3.7 points per game
Stephen DuCharme, Senior, Forward, 10.2 points per game
Brayden Bell, Sophomore, Center, DNP last season