If next week's BracketBusters game at Saint Mary's wasn't already a must-win for Utah State's at-large hopes, it probably is now after the Aggies dropped a game at Idaho on Wednesday night that they could not afford to lose.
A 64-56 loss to the Vandals leaves Utah State in a very precarious spot despite its gaudy 22-3 overall record.
Twenty-three of the Aggies' 25 games have been against opponents currently ranked outside the RPI top 100, meaning their most relevant victory of the season is probably against Long Beach State. The only two top 100 foes Utah State has faced are BYU and Georgetown, both of whom defeated the Aggies.
While Utah State deserves some scheduling sympathy because marquee opponents won't come to Logan to play a home-and-home series, that is not the profile of an at-large contender in most years, let alone the No. 21 team in the nation. Heck, even this season, Utah State's resume more closely resembles Coastal Carolina than it does that of most teams on the fringes of the at-large picture.
There's a slim chance Utah State will be able to survive another loss to a lightly regarded WAC foe in the conference tournament, but the glimmer of hope for the Aggies' at-large hopes is the Saint Mary's game. The WCC-leading Gaels would be far and away Utah State's most impressive win of the season, though going to Moraga to try to get it will not be easy to say the least.
The big-picture problem for Utah State is that this will likely be a recurring isssue unless the Aggies somehow find a way to either cajole their way into the Mountain West or beef up their non-conference schedule.
The imminent departure of Nevada and Fresno State weakens an already lackluster WAC to the point in which it may not be unusual for Utah State to be the only top 100 team. As a result, the Aggies may frequently face the same ultimatum as they do right now: Win the automatic bid, or be prepared for disappointment come Selection Sunday.