MOSCOW, Idaho – Deremy Geiger walked out of the Kibbie Dome on Wednesday night almost certain Idaho was headed to Loyola Marymount for the second round of the CollegeInsider.com tournament.
UI coach Don Verlin was pretty sure, too. After the Vandals escaped against UC Santa Barbara, he told reporters he had started scouting LMU before Idaho’s CIT opener, in case his team was paired with the Lions.
But CIT officials, who reseed the 32-team event after each round, had other plans. Late Wednesday, they decided to send Idaho to WAC rival Utah State – not LMU – for the round of 16.
The Vandals (19-13) and Aggies (18-15) meet for the third time this season Saturday night at Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, where UI hasn’t won since 2003. Tipoff is 6 PDT.
Idaho athletic director Rob Spear said he asked the CIT for a reason for the apparent switch, but none was given. The Idaho Statesman reported Friday the CIT wanted to preserve a possible Utah State-Weber State quarterfinal matchup.
LMU hosts Weber State on Sunday afternoon, and the winner will meet the team that prevails in Logan tonight.
“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,” Geiger said. “We thought if we would both be winning, we would play them in a later round.”
While it’s odd to play a league opponent so early in a postseason tourney, these teams have staged several memorable clashes since Verlin left Stew Morrill’s staff at USU to take over the Vandals’ downtrodden program.
Idaho upset nationally ranked Utah State last year, and beat the Aggies again in Moscow in January. But the Vandals’ return trip to Logan in February is the game that sticks out most in Geiger’s mind.
The Vandals, on a five-game winning streak, led by 15 late in the first half before falling apart in a 67-50 defeat on Utah State’s Senior Night.
“I think there’s a little extra motivation there,” said Geiger, who played his freshman season at USU before transferring.
Idaho is 3-8 all time in postseason tournaments, including a 2009 win in the CIT in Verlin’s first year. But the Vandals lost in the second round in ’09, and have never won back-to-back postseason games in their history.
Utah State extended a trying season with a 75-69 victory over Cal State Bakersfield in the opening round on Wednesday. The Aggies lost star Brady Jardine in November with a foot injury, and they’ve racked up the most losses in Morrill’s 14-year tenure.
Sophomore wing Preston Medlin has been a bright spot for USU. The team’s leading scorer had 24 points against Bakersfield and erupted for a career-high 32 against Idaho in February.