For a lot of college basketball teams, three games in three nights is a very formidable challenge of strength and fortitude. For a practice-weary Utah State squad, it's just what the doctor ordered.
Utah State (6-1) will open up its yearly holiday tournament, the World Vision Challenge sponsored by Gossner Foods, Thursday night against Nicholls State (1-5). The Aggies take on UC-Davis (2-6) Friday night and finish off the tournament against Southern Illinois (6-2) Saturday.
All three USU games are scheduled for tip off at 8 p.m. MST. The two teams not playing Utah State will face off at 5:30 each night.
Because of quirks in the schedule, finals week and the Danny Berger medical situation, the Aggies have only played twice in the last 22 days. According to head coach Stew Morrill, they're ready for some game action.
“We’re anxious to play again. It will be great to play three days in a row,” Morrill said. “The tournament is always very positive to get a chance to play three opponents from all over the country and see where your team is at.”
Utah State has never lost a game in its holiday tournament, but Morrill is weary of the opponents the Aggies face this week. Nicholls State and UC-Davis bring in poor records, but have spent a lot of time on the road facing Top 25 teams.
Southern Illinois, a yearly Sweet 16 contender just a few years ago, is rebounding under new head coach Barry Hinson. With six wins this season the Salukis have nearly matched last year’s total of eight.
“That, generally speaking, doesn’t happen in this type of event,” Morrill said of getting a team of Southern Illinois' caliber. “We were pleased when they decided to come. Barry Hinson got the job late and needed some games. The time frame fit. They’re off to a good start under a new coach.”
This week is the last chance for the Aggies to tune up before Western Athletic Conference play starts. The Aggies will get back from the holiday break and take off for their WAC opener against UTSA on Dec. 29.
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.