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Scouting the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the Utah State Aggies and BYU Cougars

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Arkansas guard Moses Moody (5) shoots a free throw against Texas A&M during an NCAA college basketball game in Fayetteville, Ark., Saturday, March 6, 2021. The Utah State Aggies will play Arkansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament if both teams win in the first round.

Michael Woods, Associated Press

The NCAA Tournament begins this week in Indiana, and the 11-seed Utah State Aggies will open play Friday against the 6-seed Texas Tech Red Raiders, while the 6-seed BYU Cougars will do so Saturday against the First Four winner of a game between the 11-seed Michigan State Spartans and UCLA Bruins, which will take place Thursday.

While teams preach taking things one game at a time and winning the whole tournament is the ultimate goal, it’s often a major point of pride within programs to at least advance to the Sweet 16, or the second weekend of play.

With that in mind, here’s a look at all of the teams the Aggies and Cougars could play this week to get to that point.

Utah State’s quadrant


Texas Tech’s Mac McClung (0) controls the ball during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas in Lubbock, Texas, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021.

Justin Rex, Associated Press

6. Texas Tech Red Raiders

17-10, sixth in Big 12

Statistical leaders per game:

Points: Mac McClung, 15.7

Rebounds: Marcus Santos-Silva, 6.5

Assists: Kyler Edwards, 2.7

Steals: Terrence Shannon Jr., 1.2

Blocks: Marcus Santos-Silva, 1.2

The skinny: The Red Raiders aren’t the same caliber of team as the ones that made the Elite Eight in 2018 and the national championship game in 2019, but they’re still a good squad with Chris Beard on the sidelines, and transfer Mac McClung has been excellent for them.


Arkansas forward Justin Smith against Mississippi during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Fayetteville, Ark.

Michael Woods, Associated Press

3. Arkansas Razorbacks

22-6, second in SEC

Statistical leaders per game:

Points: Moses Moody, 17.4

Rebounds: Justin Smith, 6.9

Assists: Jalen Tate, 3.9

Steals: JD Notae, 1.5

Blocks: Connor Vanover, 1.8

The skinny: The Razorbacks went 12-2 in the second half of their season and were riding a nine-game win streak before they fell to the LSU Tigers in the SEC tournament. They would play Utah State in the second round if both sides advance to that point.


Colgate’s Jordan Burns (1) drives past Loyola (Md.) during an NCAA college basketball game in the finals of the Patriot League tournament, Sunday, March 14, 2021, in Hamilton, N.Y.

John Munson, Associated Press

14. Colgate Raiders

14-1, first in Patriot League

Statistical leaders per game:

Points: Jordan Burns, 17.0

Rebounds: Keegan Records, 6.9

Assists: Jordan Burns, 5.4

Steals: Jordan Burns, 1.6

Blocks: Jeff Woodward, 1.2

The skinny: The Raiders had a bunch of games canceled because of COVID-19, but they won 13 straight contests after a two-point loss in their second game of the season. Along the way, they were the second-highest scoring offense in the entire country behind only Gonzaga, averaging 86.3 points per game.

BYU’s quadrant


Michigan State forward Aaron Henry (0) goes up for a shot against Maryland during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021, in College Park, Md.

Julio Cortez, Associated Press

11. Michigan State Spartans

15-12, ninth in Big East

Statistical leaders per game:

Points: Aaron Henry, 15.3

Rebounds: Joey Hauser, 5.7

Assists: Aaron Henry, 3.5

Steals: Aaron Henry, 1.3

Blocks: Marcus Bingham Jr., 1.3

The skinny: The Spartans started the season well and then finished very strong with wins over NCAA Tournament 1-seeds Michigan and Illinois and 2-seed Ohio State in their last seven games, although a 2-6 middle portion of the campaign had them on the tournament bubble for much of year. Which Michigan State team will show up? Coach Tom Izzo has a national championship to his name.


UCLA guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (4) dribbles against Arizona center Christian Koloko (35) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in Los Angeles.

Ringo H.W. Chiu, Associated Press

11. UCLA Bruins

17-9, fourth in Pac-12

Statistical leaders per game:

Points: Johnny Juzang, 14.0

Rebounds: Jaime Jaquez Jr., 6.0

Assists: Tyger Campbell, 5.6

Steals: Jaime Jaquez Jr., 1.2

Blocks: Jaime Jaquez Jr., 0.7

The skinny: The Bruins were 17-5 before losing their last three games of the regular season and their first-round game in the Pac-12 Tournament. The Spartans certainly have the momentum heading into the First Four matchup of traditional blue bloods, the winner of which will play BYU.


Texas guard Andrew Jones drives to the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa State, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, in Ames, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press

3. Texas Longhorns

19-7, second in Big 12

Statistical leaders per game:

Points: Andrew Jones, 14.6

Rebounds: Jericho Sims, 7.1

Assists: Matt Coleman III, 4.1

Steals: Matt Coleman III, 1.2

Blocks: Greg Brown, 1.0

The skinny: The Longhorns were one of the top teams in the country for much of the season except for a middle stretch in which they went just 4-6 (15-1 the rest of the campaign). That includes six straight wins entering the tournament, four of which came against ranked opponents. Barring an upset, Texas would be BYU’s opponent if it can get past the Michigan State-UCLA winner.


Abilene Christian center Kolton Kohl (34) looks to pass the ball under pressure from Nicholls State center Ryghe Lyons, middle, and guard Kevin Johnson (3) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Katy, Texas.

Michael Wyke, Associated Press

14. Abilene Christian Wildcats

23-4, first in Southland

Statistical leaders per game: 

Points: Kolton Kohl, 12.3

Rebounds: Joe Pleasant, 5.4

Assists: Reggie Miller, 4.4

Steals: Reggie Miller, 2.0

Blocks: Kolton Kohl, 1.0

The skinny: The Wildcats had an excellent season, with their most lopsided loss being a 13-point defeat to tournament 3-seed Arkansas. They lost to 6-seed Texas Tech by seven and their other two losses came by seven (Sam Houston State) and two (Central Arkansas). Can they pull off a big upset and beat Texas?