LOGAN — On the court, the end of Utah State’s basketball season couldn’t have been better. 

Off the court, it couldn’t have ended in a more unexpected and disappointing way.

Five days after securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in epic fashion, the Aggies’ 2019-20 season came to an abrupt conclusion with the NCAA’s announcement Thursday afternoon that it was canceling this year’s tourney due to health concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. 

“I LOVE THIS TEAM! Not how it was supposed to end but glad we went out on TOP,” USU sophomore forward Justin Bean posted on his Twitter account. 

Utah State ends the year at 26-8, leaving the Aggies with 54 total victories during head coach Craig Smith’s two seasons at USU. 

Smith and his players were unavailable for comment on Thursday, but Smith also took to Twitter to share thoughts on his squad.


On Wednesday, the NCAA announced that it would hold this year’s tournament, only without fans in attendance. But that statement by NCAA President Mark Emmert came prior to the announcement later Wednesday night that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for the coronavirus, which led directly to the postponement of the NBA’s season. 

A day later, the NCAA released a statement saying that both the men’s and women’s tournaments were being canceled.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA statement read.

On the positive side for the Aggies, the final shot of senior guard Sam Merrill’s career was an unforgettable one. 

The former Bountiful High star buried a deep 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to beat No. 5 San Diego State 59-56 in the championship game of the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas. Merrill, who had 27 points in the victory, was named the MVP of the tourney for the second straight year, becoming the first Mountain West player to accomplish that feat. 

”Utah State hasn’t won a tournament game since 2001,” Merrill said after USU’s upset of the Aztecs. ”This is our time and (winning in the NCAA Tournament) is what we’re gonna do.” 

Merrill ended up scoring 2,197 points during his career at Utah State, leaving him second on the all-time scoring list for both the Aggies and the Mountain West Conference. 

Merrill, guard Diogo Brito, guard Abel Porter and forward Roche Grootfaam have all played their last game with the Aggies, while there is a strong possibility that sophomore center Neemias Queta, who briefly declared for last year’s NBA Draft, will seek a professional career after another strong season. 

In addition, Utah State announced on Thursday that it was suspending all spring sports due to the potential spread of COVID-19. The Mountain West Conference made a similar announcement earlier in the day.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes, fans, coaches and staff is our top priority,” the statement from USU said. “We will continue to monitor what has become a very fluid situation to determine our next steps.”