Utah Stallions ready to represent USU, Cache Valley in national basketball tournament

LOGAN – The Basketball Tournament – a nationwide 64-team tournament with a $2 million prize on the line – is just around the corner, and Cache Valley will be represented.

The Utah Stallions, a team made up of Utah State University alumni, will soon head to Los Angeles for the first round, which begins July 9th. The pairings will be announced July 1st.

Just making the tournament was a challenge. Many teams entered, but only the top-60 vote getters and the last four teams remaining from last year’s tournament made the cut. With 927 votes, the former Aggies were in.

With most basketball tournaments, a team of well-coached, recent Division-I basketball players would be among the favorites to win, but this is a high level of basketball. Most teams have several former D-1 athletes, some even feature former NBA champions.

Former Aggie forward and current Utah Stallion Sean Harris recognizes the talent he will be up against.

“I’m from Sacramento and I see that Jason Williams and Mike Bibby are on the same team together in the tournament,” he said.

Each team in the tournament is ranked according to overall experience. For example, if a player on the team played at least two years in the NBA he adds nine points to the experience level, a former Euroleague player will add 7.5 points and a D-I player would add five. Other levels of experience add more points. With 42 total points, the Stallions’ experience level is less than all but four teams.

Spencer Butterfield, who played with Aggies from 2012 to 2014, is aware of the talent level, but said the Stallions’ strength lies in its chemistry and selflessness.

“That’s kind of why we’re entering this tournament with the guys we’re entering with,” Butterfield said in an April interview. “We understand we might not have the highest talent that’s entered. There’s some big names that are in the tournament, but we think we have the best overall team.”

He doesn’t just hope to win, he said they have a “good chance” at winning. Harris has that same mentality.

“That’s the biggest goal is to win, win it all,” he said. “I think we want to not just win, but we want to play smart, play smart basketball, and play as a team. Use good offensive tactics and good defensive tactics, play smart, play up tempo and be able to show that we are a team together and not just a bunch of individual guys.

The Stallions aren’t the only team from the Beehive State that will be participating. Team Utah is made of University of Utah alumni. The two teams have traded some friendly smack talk over Twitter during the past couple of month. Team Utah, also in the West region, could end up playing the Stallions early in the tournament.

“We hope that we get matched up with them eventually,” Harris said. “It would be a lot of fun to play with them. We know a lot of those guys that are on Team Utah so it would just be a great time to go at them, to play against them and to see who could bring it.”

In addition to Butterfield and Harris, former Aggies Preston Medlin, Jordan Stone, Nate Bendall, Grayson Moore and Danny Berger will suit up for the Stallions. Berger’s older brother John Berger is the only non-USU player on the team. Harris said they are honored to represent USU and Cache Valley.

“The fans have always been good to all the players that have been through here,” he said. “That’s something we’ve cherished as basketball players and members of the community in Cache Valley, is that the people out here have always welcomed us. Just another chance to be able to represent them is something that we look forward to doing and hopefully we can do it well.”

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