The view from a plateau

There’s been a fair amount of introspection among Utah State fans following the 69-53 loss to Texas A&M in the first round of the NCAA Tournament late Friday afternoon.

Aggie fans, not to mention the Aggies themselves, envisioned a much more competitive effort against A&M. What they got, however, was a quick early deficit that never got closer than seven points.

What did we learn in the loss?

We learned Utah State is not as quick, as long or as deep in the post as the majority of the Top 25 teams out there. Tai Wesley, Nate Bendall and Brady Jardine are tremendous basketball players but — especially when they got into foul trouble — were outmatched by the Texas A&M posts.

Utah State could really use a skilled 6-foot-10 guy or two as the Aggie strive to make the transition from Big West power to WAC power to NCAA Tournament winner.

Let’s take a look at what’s coming up next year.

The Aggies lose Jared Quayle — a first-team all-WAC player who stuffed the stat sheets nearly every game with his rebounding, scoring and ball control. He’ll certainly be missed.

Stepping into his shoes will be the combination of Brockeith Pane (the starting point guard at Midland College in Texas), James Walker (a high-scoring do-it-all player from Los Alomitos High School in California) and Jaxon Myaer (the junior-to-be who will have three years in Stew Morrill’s system).

Other than that, the Aggies will have four starters back — for the second season in a row.

Wesley will return as the team leader. During the offseason, he will probably be working hard to build the on-court relationship with Bendall. Not to disparage Bendall, but there was something special between Wesley and Gary Wilkinson the previous year and their mind-meld teamwork made them nearly unstoppable.

Pooh Williams and Tyler Newbold will again return at the wing. The defensive stars were as much a key to USU’s success as anyone on the team and actually did a decent job against Texas A&M’s top scorers. Nobody expected a 29-percent 3-point shooter to light up the nets with five 3-pointers in a row.

Jardine is an incredible talent and has as much athleticism as anyone USU played this year. Brian Green, likewise, proved himself to be as quality a marksman as there is. Both return and add depth.

The key to Utah State’s success in the future may very well if they can find those players that not only run Morrill’s highly-successful system to perfection, but have just an extra step of athleticism, skill and ability to contend with the normal Top 25 program.

Utah State has seen its recruiting pick up considerably since it left the Big West.

Now, it’s time to jump it up again — in regards to both talent and competition.

Morrill is definitely coach enough to run a perennial Top 25 program.

Utah State is in just five years established as the class of the WAC. But some feel USU has plateaued.

The view from a plateau can be magnficent.

But there’s always a higher vantage point beyond the next horizon.

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