Team preview: Utah State

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Utah State basketball has been running in some fast company under coach Stew Morrill's watch.

The Aggies have won at least 23 games in seven of the eight years Morrill has been coach. In that same time frame dating back to the 1999-2000 season, only four other schools have won at least 23 games per season -- Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas and Syracuse.

Fast company indeed.

During that run, the Aggies have been to the postseason seven straight times, including five NCAA Tournament appearances that go back to their days in the Big West Conference.

But while the Aggies were able to dominate that league, the WAC offers more than just one or two stern tests along the way. Utah State was able to rise to the challenge in its inaugural tour of the WAC last season. The Aggies finished second to regular-season and tournament champion Nevada to earn an at-large bid to the Big Dance. But matching that performance will be difficult this time around with only two returning starters.

"We've achieved a standard of excellence here that quite frankly is difficult to match," Morrill said. "We've had some talented teams, including last year's, but we've got a lot of new faces around these days and they will need time to come together as a team."

How much time depends on more factors than Morrill can count. He returns one starter in the frontcourt, and it's not All-WAC sensation Nate Harris (17.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg). He was the Aggies' force in the paint last season, and without him Morrill will need to find some answers among the returnees and newcomers -- and in a hurry.

"You don't replace a player like Nate overnight," Morrill said. "You have to give players an opportunity to make a difference; put them in the right offensive and defensive sets, then let them go from there."