USU men’s basketball recognized as the Team of the Year at the 41st Dinner of Champions

Utah State Aggies guard Sam Merrill (5) holds the Mountain West Championship trophy in Las Vegas, NV, on March 16. The Aggies won against the Aztecs, 64-57, and will be an automatic berth in the NCAA March Madness Tournament.

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State men’s basketball has been named the 2019 Team of the Year by the Utah chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, as awarded at its annual Dinner of Champions on Wednesday night in Salt Lake City. The Dinner of Champions is the National MS Society’s premier gala event and pays tribute to the vast network of generous corporations, organizations and volunteer leaders who are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of people living with MS.

Utah State finished the 2018-19 season with an overall mark of 28-7, the third-most wins in school history, and qualified as a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The seed was the highest in USU men’s basketball history. The Aggies also broke school records in points and blocks, scoring 2,753 points on the year and passing the previous school record of 2,619 points set during the 1969-70 season. Utah State logged 147 rejections during the year, led by a school-record performance of 84 blocks by Neemias Queta, to break the old school record of 142 blocks set during the 2014-15 season.

Utah State won its first Mountain West title in men’s basketball since joining the league in 2013-14, capturing both the regular season and tournament titles. Along the way, several Aggies earned individual accolades, including Sam Merrill, who was named the MW Player of the Year and MW Tournament MVP. Merrill also garnered national attention, earning AP honorable mention all-American honors.

Queta earned individual honors after being named the MW Freshman of the Year and MW Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to earning a spot at the NBA Draft Combine. Queta spent his summer leading his native Portugal, to the title of the FIBA U20 European Championships – Division B.

First-year head coach Craig Smith won more games than any other first-year head coach in the country and more than any other head coach in their inaugural year in Utah State history. Smith was named the MW Coach of the Year, in addition to earning USBWA District VIII and NABC District 17 Coach of the Year.

Utah State already has high expectations going into the 2019-20 season, appearing in the top-25 in several preseason polls among online groups. The Aggies return four starters from last season in Merrill, Queta, junior guard Abel Porter and sophomore guard Brock Miller. USU returns two more contributors from a season ago, in senior guard Diogo Brito and sophomore forward Justin Bean. That group will be joined by three returning redshirts and six newcomers with the season just around the corner.

The Aggies are set to begin practice on Monday, Sept. 23, inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, with their first game scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 30, when Utah State hosts the College of Idaho in an exhibition contest.

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