In the chaotic moments after Idaho dispatched UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday, UI athletic director Rob Spear tweeted that it looked the Vandals would play Loyala Marymount in the next round of the CIT. Then Don Verlin said roughly the same thing to reporters.
But it didn't happen. Read how the Vandals are instead in Logan, Utah, to play Utah State tonight below in our preview. We have more below on the teams' third matchup of the season.
“Utah State? Really?” That seems to the general reaction I've heard after the CIT announced the WAC schools would meet in the second round.
Why pair the two rivals so early in the tourney? Spear told me he asked for a reason but wasn't given one. Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman reported that the CIT has been intrigued by a Utah State-Weber State matchup in the quarterfinals — not the round of 16, apparently — and so sent Weber to LMU and Idaho to USU. Weber also couldn't host a second-round game because of a scheduling conflict and there were geographic concerns, according to Murphy's story.
Regardless, here's what Idaho senior guard Deremy Geiger said about the rematch:
“It was a shocker, a real surprise that we would be playing a team that (we) already played twice in a season and is in our conference. We thought if we would both be winning, we would play them in a later round.”
I also asked Geiger about playing at Utah State — where he started his career — with what should be a much smaller crowd than when these teams played in Logan in February. It was Senior Night then and more than 10,000 fans were there. “I think we’re ready for any type of atmosphere there is,” he said. “We just have one goal in mind. Coach always said, 'It only matters about the guys in the locker room playing whether it’s a sold-out crowd of there’s nobody in the seats.' ”
If the Vandals win tonight, they'll get to 20 wins for the first time since 1992-93 — and win two postseason games in the same season for the first time in program history. Geiger and Stephen Madison said those goals are nice, but there's another reason the team wants to keep the season going.
“A lot of guys just aren’t ready to quit playing yet,” Geiger said. “This team’s a really close-knit group. We really care about each other and we want to keep playing as long as possible. And as a senior, you’re not ready to put on that jersey for the last time yet. I think we’re going to be playing with a lot of passion, just a lot of intensity.”