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Utah State has 30 wins but only No. 12 seed
Aggies meet Kansas State in opening round of Big Dance
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Utah State won 30 games this season but was rewarded with only a No. 12 seed in the NCAA tournament and will face No. 5 seed Kansas State on Thursday in a second-round game in Tucson, Ariz.

"A 12th seed is a little bit of a surprise. We were thinking an eight or nine seed, 10 at the worst," Utah State coach Stew Morrill said Sunday. "Obviously, it will be a challenging game."

The 23rd-ranked Aggies (30-3 overall) are making their third straight NCAA tournament appearance, eighth in the last 12 years and 20th in history.

But to win means a quick turnaround after Saturday night's victory over Boise State in the Western Athletic Conference tourney finals.

Morrill said his team will fly to Tucson on Tuesday.

"In some ways, you hope for a Friday game so you have a little more time, but as you looked at the sites, Friday games meant that you were going East," he said. "So, Thursday games at least kept us in the West."

This is the third No. 12 seed for Utah State in the last four appearances and second in a row. Last year, 12th-seeded Utah State lost to fifth-seeded Texas A&M, 69-53, in the first round at Spokane, Wash.

The Aggies are 6-21 in their previous 19 NCAA tournament appearances, last winning a game in 2001 when they recorded a first-round upset of No. 5 seed Ohio State, 77-68, in overtime.

"What kind of strikes me as a little bit funny is that we are constantly hearing about how it has been 10 years since we won an NCAA tournament game," Morrill said. "Well, we have played some really good teams. Our seeds have been tough seeds. You are playing a lot of BCS teams with big athletic guys, and it presents a lot of challenges. That being said, hopefully our guys will feel a little motivated like they were slighted a bit in terms of the seed, and get ready to go."

Morrill said it's not time to be upset.

"It is a time to be excited," he said. "You can haggle about your seed. You slot us in a 7/10 or 8/9 game anywhere in there, and you are going to get a really good opponent. That's just what you are going to get. The last thing you need to do at 30-3 with the year that we have had is be disappointed. I am not disappointed. I am a little surprised; that is what I would say."

Critics have pointed to the Aggies' weak schedule, and playing in a conference that gets little respect.

Utah State's biggest problem is their success at home, which makes top teams afraid to come to Logan, Utah.

"There will be all of the critics with all of the answers, but when you understand scheduling you are not getting those teams to play us," Morrill said. "I chuckled when Ohio State was the No. 1 seed because they had an opening that fit our schedule. I have known Thad (Motta) a long time, and he just said, 'No, we aren't going to do that.' What are you supposed to play top-25, top-50 teams on the road and some of them won't play you? You are going to help your strength of schedule and hurt your RPI because you are going to lose. Nobody wants to hear that, but you are."

Utah State's 30 wins rank as the second-most in the country behind Kansas, San Diego State and Ohio State (with 32 apiece). Belmont, Duke, BYU and USU also have 30 wins.

The Aggies (30-3) are one of just four teams in the nation with three or fewer losses along with San Diego State (32-2), Kansas (32-2) and Ohio State (32-2). USU's 30 wins ties a school record, matching the 2008-09 squad (30-5).

Morrill said this Aggies team stands out because of its defense.

"(Of) my 25 teams, this has to be my top two or three defensively," he said. "They are experienced, mentally tough and physical. They are able to play plenty of defenses pretty solidly. Now when you get challenged all of a sudden with a different level of athlete and length, that really challenges your defense. Hopefully, we can step up and do a good job there. We are going to try to put ourselves in a position to win."