LOGAN — Over the years, the ESPN Bracketbuster event has been a game to look forward to on the Utah State schedule in late February. It has allowed the Aggies to get out of conference, get on television and test themselves against another top-flight team such as Saint Mary’s or Wichita State.
The 2013 Bracketbusters is the final year for the yearly mid-major showdown, and even though Utah State did not draw a premier TV match-up this season, overall it has been a positive for head coach Stew Morrill and the Aggies.
“It’s served its purpose from our perspective a lot,” Morrill said. “We have had some games that have helped us get at-large berths. I wasn’t a guy that thought Bracketbusters was going to be a good deal, but I was wrong.”
There won’t be any at-large bids on the line this year, but USU still picked up a good opponent for Bracketbusters in Illinois State of the Missouri Valley Conference. The Redbirds were a preseason favorite in the league after falling in overtime in a conference title game last year, but have struggled with consistency this season. Illinois State sits at just 7-9 in conference play but has shown the ability to play at the top level of the conference, beating No. 16 Creighton on the road two weeks ago.
“I watch them play and feel like they are very capable of winning that league, winning the tournament, whatever you want to say,” Morrill said. “They are plenty capable of beating anybody in the valley any given night.”
It has been a non-conference week filled with stiff tests for the Aggies. On Tuesday night, USU fell at BYU on a buzzer-beater, but has not let that setback slow the Aggies down. The team took Wednesday off and came back into practice ready for preparations for the Redbirds on Thursday.
“They have been able to do what we talk about a lot, just try to move to the next game,” Morrill said. “We keep talking about just trying to get better, working towards getting better towards the end of the year and towards the conference tournament. We are trying to compete in every game and see if we can find a way to win some. They have been solid along those lines, and hopefully that will continue.”
The Aggies will get back into WAC play as they hit the road next week for their final pair of road games of the season at Louisiana Tech and UT Arlington.
Aggies on the Air
Illinois State (16-12, 7-9 MVC) at Utah State (18-7, 9-5 WAC)
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013 • 7 p.m. MST • Logan, Utah
Dee Glen Smith Spectrum (10,270) •
RADIO: Aggie Sports Network
Kraig Williams is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.