Bozeman to Logan: Instant success traveled from Montana State to help Utah State reach NCAA tournament

Utah State basketball
Posted at 12:51 PM, Mar 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-22 14:51:36-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Former Montana State standout coach and player Danny Sprinkle makes his third straight NCAA tournament appearance Friday night, this time at the helm of No. 8-seeded Utah State.

Sprinkle has found instant success in Logan, Utah, this season, leading the team to an outright regular-season title in the Mountain West. He now hopes to use his previous experience of the Big Dance with his former program this year with the Aggies.

Two former Montana State players, Darius Brown II and Great Osobor transferred to Utah State from Montana State this offseason and had no trouble jumping from the Big Sky to the Mountain West.

Both were named first-team All-Mountain West, and Osobor was the league's player of the year.

"I’m just grateful that me and D.B. were able to come here and continue a tradition," Osobor reflected. "Utah State’s an amazing school, and they’ve been going to the NCAA tournament.

"Just the fact that we’re able to come here with 13 new guys and carry on the tradition that the Aggies have of going to the dance, it just speaks volumes of everyone bought in from the staff to the players. And it just speaks volumes what coach Sprink decided to bring to Logan, Utah."

Osobor was apart of the back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances with the Bobcats, while Brown was a part of their appearance last year.

Brown, the 2023 Big Sky defensive player of the year, explained that the familiarity of Sprinkle’s staff that joined him from Montana State to Utah State offers reassurance for this year's tournament.

"It brings a sense of comfort being in the tournament again with the same coach," Brown said. "It brings a sense of comfort because it allows me to still be me. I don’t feel like I have to be any different, and I think that will go a long way, and it will probably carry over in the game, unconsciously. Not something you think about. It’s been really huge."

Sprinkle's staff in Bozeman that joined him in Logan include Andy Hill and Chris Haslam as assistant coaches, and Johnny Hill as the director of player development.

Xavier Bishop is also apart of Sprinkle's staff as a graduate assistant for Utah State. He played for Sprinkle at MSU, and in his final season he was named first-team All-Big Sky and was the 2022 Big Sky Conference tournament MVP.

The staff is key in understanding Utah State's first-round opponent, No. 9-seeded TCU, because this is the third straight year Sprinkle and his staff face a Big 12 team.

At Montana State, they took on No. 3 seeds Texas Tech and Kansas State in back-to-back appearances as a No. 14 seed.

"I don’t know why the selection committee keeps giving me Big 12 teams," Sprinkle said with a smile. "But it’s more for me and my staff, because my staff, we’ve been through the last two NCAA tournaments. This team is totally different. They don’t know."

Sprinkle, one of the last hires in Division I basketball, had only so much time to put a roster together. It was one that had no scoring or rebounding return from the previous season. Now the Aggies come into March Madness at 27-6 and as the outright regular-season champions, which is a testament to Sprinkle's coaching ability.

"Not even a year ago, you know, 11 months ago when I got hired, we didn’t even know who was on the roster," Sprinkle explained. "We had three players (return), two of them redshirted last year, and so for this group to come together in a short amount of time and to do it in a Mountain West conference that was as good as it was this year, and to have 27 wins is a great accomplishment for our players."

Sprinkle and the former Cats know this stage well, and now they look to build on those experiences with a run at Utah State.

Utah State begins the NCAA tournament against TCU at 7:55 p.m. Mountain time on Friday.