Utah State basketball: Season over, Aggies look ahead to Mountain West

Men's basketball • CIT invitation unlikely for injury-plagued team.
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Las Vegas • On Selection Sunday, it seems at least one Utah team won't be holding its breath.

Utah State likely won't be invited, coach Stew Morrill said. He's talked to College Insider Tournament officials, and the chances seem slim. And even if they are, they're unlikely to accept.

"With the injuries and everything, our administration feels pretty strongly about maybe we just oughta shut 'er down," Morrill said Tuesday.

Utah State has been in the CIT before, nearly winning it last year before falling to Mercer. But the Aggies are more concerned with the health of their players and getting ready for the Mountain West, it seems.

A cyst on a nerve in Spencer Butterfield's hip has required surgery for months. Marcel Davis may need surgery for achy feet. And those are just on top of the season-ending ailments: Preston Medlin's broken wrist, Sean Harris' ACL, Danny Berger's heart. Athletic trainer Mike Williams arguably had the most important role on the team this year.

The feeling that the program was a rehabilitation ward as much as a basketball team took its toll.

"It has been a trying season on all of us, all that was going on," Morrill said. "We didn't go away and hide, we kept competing injury after injury. Hopefully, we got our quota of injuries out of the way for the next few years."

With a move to one of the top basketball conferences in the country coming this fall, the Aggies want to account for their wounds before playing a higher cut of competition.

But Utah State also wants to move forward, not using its injuries as an excuse. Ben Clifford said he saw a lot of things in the Aggies' final game of the season that he wants to work on — not the least of which is how they turned the ball over in the final minute.

"This is the second year in a row knocked out, and it hurts," he said. "Coming down in the years ahead, we want to execute better late."

In the farewell season to the WAC, it was a tough goodbye. Not only to be kicked out, but to be booted by a team that had bested them three times this year was hard to swallow.

The Mountain West will offer a greater challenge — one that Utah State will soon start tackling.

"It just motivates me to work that much harder," Butterfield said. "We've just got to get out there in the next couple weeks and just work as hard as we can."