USU men’s hoops picked fifth in preseason Mountain West poll

Ryan Odom, newly announced USU basketball head coach (Courtesy: Utah State)

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State men’s basketball has been picked fifth in the annual Mountain West preseason poll, as announced by the league offices on Wednesday morning. The poll was voted on by select members of the media following the Mountain West. The announcement was made ahead of the league’s virtual media days, beginning Wednesday and continuing into Thursday.

Colorado State was picked as the 2021-22 preseason favorite, garnering 207 points and 11 first-place votes. The Rams were followed by San Diego State with 201 points and seven first-place votes and Nevada with 189 points and two first-place votes. Boise State was picked fourth with 147 points, rounding out the top five. Fans can follow MW media days by visiting https://themw.com/sports/2021/10/7/mbb_media_days_2021.aspx.

The Aggies enter the 2021-22 season with a new look after welcoming 10 newcomers to the mix and a new head coach in Ryan Odom, who takes over the helm after five years at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC).

Odom led the Retrievers of UMBC to a 97-60 (.573) record, including a 50-29 mark in the America East Conference. In the 2018 NCAA Tournament, UMBC became the first-ever 16-seed to win a first-round game as it posted a 74-54 win against top overall seed Virginia.

The Mountain West is going to be extremely strong this season,” Odom said. “Our players are excited about the opportunity to get out and compete.”

Utah State returns seven letterwinners from a season ago, including a pair of starters in senior forward Justin Bean and senior guard Brock Miller. Bean is a two-time all-MW selection, including second-team honors during the COVID-shortened 2020-21 campaign, and the top returning scorer (11.4 ppg) and rebounder (7.7 rpg) for the Aggies this season. Miller has proven to be one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in the MW over the course of his career, attempting 573 shots from long range, while appearing in 101 games.

Other returners for the Aggies include junior guard Sean Bairstow, who has appeared in 57 games over the past two season and carries averages of 3.2 points and 1.4 assists per game. Junior center Trevin Dorius is anticipated to be the rim protector for Utah State, following the departure of Neemias Queta, who was drafted in the second round of the 2021 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings. Dorius has appeared in 50 games over the last two years, including three starts during his freshman year in 2019-20. The Aggies also return sophomore center Szymon Zapala, who appeared in 13 games a season ago and pulled down 75 percent of his rebounds on the offensive glass.

Sophomore guards Steven Ashworth and Max Shulga are, perhaps, the most seasoned returners as the duo played more games than any other returning freshmen from the 2020-21 season. Ashworth played in all 29 games a season ago and started in two, scoring in double figures in eight games, including a season-high 17 points against San Diego State in Utah State’s 64-59 victory over the Aztecs in Logan. Shulga appeared in 23 games during his freshman campaign, scoring 1.6 points and adding 1.8 rebounds in 6.8 minutes per game. Sophomore forward Matthew Wickizer played in nine games during the 2020-21 season and was an important part of the scout team.

The Aggies’ 10 newcomers include senior guard RJ Eytle-Rock and senior forward Brandon Horvath, who each played under Odom at UMBC. Eytle-Rock and Horvath were the top two scorers for the Retrievers, averaging 14.3 and 13.1 points per game, respectively. Utah State will also be bolstered by Utah transfer Rylan Jones, who appeared in 45 games with the Utes over the last two years. Jones prepped locally at Logan High School before finishing his high school career at Olympus High School in Holladay, Utah.

Junior college transfer Travis Wagstaff was the second leading scorer at Snow College during the 2020-21 season and provides an immediate scoring option after logging 20 or more points in seven games for the Badgers. The sophomore forward recorded a season-high 35 points against Southern Nevada and also finished third on the team with 4.9 rebounds per game and fourth with 2.9 assists per game.

Utah State’s newcomers are rounded out by freshman forward Cade Potter and freshman Landon Brenchley, who each recently returned from two-year missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Bogota, Colombia, and Toronto, Canada, respectively.  Sophomore guards Conner Gillis and Connor Odom are each one-year removed from college basketball after attending East Carolina and Flagler College (Florida) last year. Sophomore forward Norbert Thelissen originally signed with the University of Utah last season, but remained in The Netherlands during the COVID-19 pandemic. Freshman Zee Hamoda is the first NCAA Division I men’s basketball player from Bahrain and spent the last season at Bridgton Academy, a prep school in Maine.

 Season tickets for the 2021-22 men’s basketball season are already on sale and can be purchased by visiting www.utahstateaggies.com or by calling the Utah State ticket office at 1-888-USTATE-1.

 Utah State men’s basketball news and information is available on Facebook (facebook.com/usumensbasketball), on Twitter (@usubasketball) and on Instagram (@usubasketball). Fans can also get USU men’s basketball highlights on YouTube (youtube.com/utahstateathletics). Aggie fans can follow the Utah State athletic program on Twitter (@usuathletics), on Facebook (facebook.com/usuathletics) or on Instagram (@usuathletics).

 

2021-22 MOUNTAIN WEST PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

 

Rank      Team (First-Place Votes)                Points

1.            Colorado State (11)                         207

2.            San Diego State (7)                          201

3.            Nevada (2)                                          189

4.            Boise State                                          147

5.            Utah State                                          127

6.            Fresno State                                       119

7.            UNLV                                                     109

8.            New Mexico                                       79

                Wyoming                                             79

10.          San José State                                    40

11.          Air Force                                              23

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