USU hoops beefs up schedule
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It appears that Utah State is doing all it can to strengthen its basketball schedule.

The Aggies, the annual hoops power of the Western Athletic Conference, will play at Mississippi State this season in what will kick-off a three-game deal between the two schools, USU athletic director Scott Barnes told the Tribune on Thursday.

With the contract being signed on Wednesday, the two schools will play this season, take a year off, with MSU returning a game to Logan in two seasons. The series will conclude at Mississippi State the following year, Barnes said.

Barnes said the full basketball schedule should be completed by next week. Already, though, the Aggies have made major improvements in the quality of competition they will face. With Kent State, Wichita State, BYU and Weber State already on the non-conference slate, Utah State will play five teams before playing a WAC game that finished in the RPI top-150 nationally.

The Aggies played three such games all season last year, which led to them receiving a much lower than expected 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament, despite being dominant during the regular season. USU then lost its first round NCAA matchup against Kansas State.

"There is no doubt that we sought to strengthen our schedule in the non-conference," Barnes said. "Coach (Stew) Morrill made this happen, I just signed the contract. We feel like this has the potential to be a very challenging schedule for us. We're very excited to go out and play it."

MSU is a member of the Southeastern Conference. The two schools had three common opponents last season in Hawaii, St. Mary's and Troy. Mississippi State lost two of those games a year ago, while beating Troy, but returns Dee Bost, who could be one of the best guards in the SEC.

tjones@sltrib.com

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