- Utah State is a 2.5-point home favorite against St. Mary’s on Thursday.
- Saint Mary’s returns every point from 2020-21
- Read below for analysis and a betting prediction
Utah State (6-1) is a 2.5-point home favorite against St. Mary’s on Thursday at 9 pm ET on CBS Sports Network. The Aggies have won six in a row after being upset by UC-Davis in the season opener.
St. Mary’s (7-1) won its first six games before losing to Wisconsin in the finals of the Maui Jim Invitational in Las Vegas. The Gaels responded with a 67-50 victory over UC Riverside on Monday.
Saint Mary’s vs Utah State Odds
|Saint Mary’s Gaels||+118||+2.5 (-110)||Over 128.5 (-112)|
|Utah State Aggies||-142||-2.5 (-110)||Under 128.5 (-108)|
Odds from FanDuel on Dec. 1
Non-Power 6 programs Saint Mary’s and Utah State invariably find themselves on the bubble when the NCAA tournament selection committee meets to pick the 68-team field, and the winner of this game can carry that result all the way to selection Sunday on March 13.
Utah State made the NCAA tournament after reaching the Mountain West tournament finals in 2021, where it lost to San Diego State after beating the Aztecs twice in the regular season. Saint Mary’s suffered a lopsided loss to San Diego State a year ago and missed the NCAA tournament.
At Utah State, Justin Bean’s time has come. Bean, a 6’7 senior forward, is leading the Aggies in scoring (22.6 points) and rebounding (12.9) and is the only player in NCAA Division I at 20/10. Bean also has six double-doubles, tied with centers Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Utah Valley’s Fardaws Aimaq for the Division I lead. All have played seven games.
Bean was the MVP of the Myrtle Beach Invitational, and he had 24 points and a season-high 19 rebounds in a 73-70 victory over Oklahoma in the championship game, the Aggies’ signature signature victory. He set a tournament record with 43 rebounds. Bean is shooting 68.7 percent from the field and has made 10 of 17 3-point attempts and 30 of 34 free throw attempts this season.
Senior guard 6’5 Brock Miller was the only other returning rotation member for new coach Craig Odom, but two transfers — senior 6’10 forward Brandon Horvath, who followed Odom from Maryland-Baltimore County, and junior point guard 6′ Rylan Jones — have fit.
Horvath is averaging 14.7 points, Miller is averaging 10.7 and Jones is averaging 9.9 points and 5.4 assists. Miller had 16 points and four threes, two in the final two minutes in the victory over Oklahoma.
Utah State is assisting on 70% of their made shots this season… beautiful basketball pic.twitter.com/fMWo2cVRGs
— aggie oop (@aggieoop) November 30, 2021
The Aggies averaging 20.6 assists per game, third in Division I, and are shooting 49.2 percent from the field, one leading to the other. Utah State has 26 assists in each of the last two games, the most recent a 93-63 victory over NAIA Carroll College.
Returning role player guard Sean Bairstow had eight points against Carroll after missing the first six games because of a left wrist injury.
Gaels Storm Vegas
Saint Mary’s, one of three Division I teams that returned every point scored a year ago, is off to a strong start against a testing schedule. The Gaels beat Notre Dame and Oregon, the latter decisively, before losing to Wisconsin 61-55 in the championship game of the Maui Jim Invitational in Las Vegas, Nev. over the Thanksgiving holiday.
As is coach Randy Bennett’s pattern, the Gaels rely heavily on international players and are led in scoring by senior 6’7 forward Dan Fotu, a native of New Zealand, who is averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 rebounds. Senior 6’2 guard Tommy Kuhse is averaging 10.9 points and 3.6 assists and senior 6’10 forward Matthias Tass from Estonia is averaging 10.6 points and 4.5 rebounds.
The Gales have outrebounded five of their seven opponents and have a plus-5.4 rebound margin. Utah State has a plus-7.2 rebound margin.
By the Numbers
Saint Mary’s has won four of the six in the season series, posting an 81-73 victory in Moraga in the last meeting in the 2019-20 season. Utah State won the game the year before, 80-63 in Las Vegas, as part of the MGM Resorts Main Event in November of 2018.
Utah State is 5-1 ATS and is 2-1 as a home favorite. Saint Mary’s is 5-3 ATS, 1-1 as an underdog, It was a 2.5-point underdog to both Oregon and Wisconsin in the Maui Jim Invitational.
Bean will be the best player on the floor, but the points are worth taking on a veteran team that understands the urgency.
The pick: Saint Mary’s +2.5 (-110)