It was back to work for the Aggie men's basketball team Monday.
A day after being disappointed in the seed it drew, No. 19 Utah State - 17th in the USA Today/ESPN poll - met and started preparing for its second-round game in the NCAA Tournament against No. 21 Kansas State - 24th in the USA Today/ESPN poll. The Aggies will practice today, then take a flight to Tucson, Ariz., this evening.
When the announcement was made Sunday, players and coaches were visibly stunned at getting a 12th seed in the Southeast Regional. The Aggies, who captured the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship on Saturday and ran their record to 30-3, were expecting a better seed.
"When we saw the seed, it caught us off guard," USU forward Brady Jardine said. "I'm not going to lie, it was a little frustrating. But really, the seed doesn't matter. Either way, we are going to have tough games. We are excited to play and we are excited about playing a good team. Now we want to go beat them."
The fifth-seeded Wildcats (22-10) had a rocky season, but seemed to be playing well down the stretch. They did lose to Colorado in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.
The Aggies and Wildcats clash Thursday at the McKale Center. The game will begin at approximately 8 p.m. MST.
"We expected to get a better seed than a 12," USU guard Pooh Williams said. "The NCAA committee did what they had to do. That's what they thought we deserved, a 12 seed. ... I just want to prove to them that we are not a 12 seed."
That seems to be a common theme with this senior-laden team. They are not happy about the seed, but are well aware that the only way to get national respect is to go win a game.
This will be the third straight trip to the Big Dance for USU and the eighth time in the last 12 years. The Aggies have just one win, however. They beat Ohio State in 2001 as a 12 seed.
Last year USU was also a 12 seed, but didn't fare well. In a battle of Aggies, Texas A&M took control and recorded a 69-53 win. In 2009, USU was an 11 seed and led for most of the game against Marquette before falling 58-57. Three Aggie starters were a part of that game, as well as last season's NCAA Tournament contest.
"We have a veteran team," USU head coach Stew Morrill said. "This is our third-straight time at the NCAA Tournament. It is our third-straight time with a big challenge. Let's go see what we can do."
That attitude has been passed on to the Aggie athletes. After walking out of a Selection Show party Sunday in a daze, they were confident and smiling on Monday.
"It's exciting. It's the NCAA Tournament," said USU forward Tai Wesley, the WAC Player of the Year. "It's what every kid dreams of, playing on that big stage. So, we're all excited and will be ready."
"We are going to be ready for Kansas State," said Aggie point guard Brockeith Pane, who was the WAC Tournament MVP. "That's the only thing we can do. We can't sit around and complain about our seed. That's what they gave us and we will be ready to play and be excited."
The battle between the Aggies and the Wildcats will air on truTV, which can be seen on Comcast Channel 44/Channel 736HD in Cache Valley; DirectTV Channel 246 or Dish Network Channel 204. All NCAA Tournament games will also be streamed online at MMOD.NCAA.com.
The winner of the Utah State-Kansas State game will play the winner of fourth-seeded Wisconsin and 13th-seeded Belmont on Saturday.