Danny Sprinkle, Utah State Aggies

A new coach with a winning mentality hopes to bring it to the Utah State Aggies in an immediate rebuild.

As is tradition, CBB Review is again ranking the top 100 teams heading into the new college basketball season. Each day, we will reveal the next team until we reach the team slotted at number one. Follow along with #CBBRank on all our social media channels.
Last year, the Utah State Aggies were a dominant force on the back of senior play and an immensely talented player in Taylor Funk. With this original team moving on through graduation and transfers, Danny Sprinkle came in and immediately got to work building his team. After four years of building Montana State, Sprinkle lasted two years in the Big Sky Conference. His team finished first and second but was back-to-back Big Sky Conference Tournament Champion. Making this move, he brought two players from Montana State in Great Osobor and Darius Brown II.
The Utah State Aggies have reloaded the roster. They were able to keep Landon Brenchley, Isaac Johnson, and Mason Falslev from the Ryan Odom team. Sprinkle immediately went to the transfer portal to find pieces that would fit the culture he plans to implant. This conference will be a little different from last year for coach Sprinkle, but I would expect him to bounce back strong. He has never had a losing season as a head coach.
This team has some true stars, especially from the Big Sky Conference. Brown and Osobor were pivotal pieces for Sprinkle’s Montana State team, and he also brought Big Sky Freshman of the Year, Nigel Burris. The Aggies added a couple of shooters in Josh Uduje and Javon Jackson. Jackson may find his way into the starting lineup, but it depends on how Uduje and Maryland transfer Ian Martinez start the year. If these two can’t find a rhythm, Javon’s underdog mentality may make him a star for this team.

Click here to learn more about our preseason top 100 teams heading into the 2023-24 college basketball season.

Head coach:  Danny Sprinkle (5th season, 1st at Utah State)

2022-23 record: 26-9 (13-5)

2023 postseason finish: Lost to Missouri, 76-65, in first round of NCAA Tournament

Notable departures: Steven Ashworth (Transferred to Creighton), Taylor Funk (NBA), Daniel Akin (Graduated), Max Shulga (Transfer to VCU), Sean Bairstow (Transferred to VCU), Trevin Dorius (Transferred to Utah Valley), Rylan Jones (Transferred to Samford), Zee Hamoda (Transferred to Sacramento State)

Notable nonconference games: vs. Marshall (Nov. 19), Cayman Islands Classic (Nov. 20-21), at Santa Clara (Dec. 13)

Projected Rotation

PG: Darius Brown (6-2, 195, Gr.Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 9.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 39.7 3P% (Montana State)

SG: Ian Martinez (6-3, 181, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 5.9 PPG,  2.6 RPG, 0.6 APG, 40.3 3P% (Maryland)

SF: Josh Uduje (6-5, 175, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 13.3 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.3 SPG (Coastal Carolina)

PF: Great Osobor (6-8, 245, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 10.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 62.4 FG% (Montana State)

C: Jackson Grant (6-10, 205, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 0.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.1 APG (Washington)

6: Nigel Burris (6-7, 222, So.)

2022-23 stats: 8.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 44.8 3P% (Idaho)

7: Javon Jackson (6-3, 190, So.)

2022-23 stats: 15.8 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 39.4 3P% (Southern Nazarene – DII)

8: Max Agbonkpolo (6-8, 190, Sr.)

2022-23 stats: 5.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 0.8 APG (Wyoming)

9: Isaac Johnson (7-0, 225, Rs.-So.)

2021-22 stats: 2.4 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.2 APG, 14 games played (Oregon)

2022-23 stats: DNP

10: Landon Brenchley (6-4, 215, Jr.)

2022-23 stats: 0.0 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.3 APG, 6 games played

Utah State Aggies MVP: Darius Brown II

Darius Brown II will be the Utah State Aggies team leader. He can do it all and will have this responsibility under his coach. Brown grinds it out on both ends of the floor. While he isn’t known for being “the guy” offensively, he affects every play. Last year, Brown was third-team All-Big Sky and, more importantly, was Defensive Player of the Year in the Big Sky Conference. He was second in assists per game (4.9) and first in steals per game (1.8).

While Brown is used to being the facilitator, he can also score. His value shows up in how he creates for others and polishes teammates into shining. Brown’s ability to read passes and create takeaways for breakaways can create easy buckets for this team. He can score from anywhere, but his ability to be a threat from anywhere makes defenses break down.

Utah State Aggies make-or-break player: Nigel Burris

Big Sky Freshman of the Year Nigel Burris is the make-or-break player for the Aggies. In his second year, this player is moving conferences and moving coaches. “Step Up” is not just a popular movie from the 2000s, but also what Burris must do. Burris is one of the best 3-point shooters, especially on this team. Last year he started by coming off the bench. This year will likely be a similar scenario. Much like last year, Burris can play starters to become one himself.

Last year, it took eight games for Burris to make the starting lineup after scoring 18 points against Pacific. His best-scoring match was his last in the Big Sky Tournament. He scored 21 points and had seven rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Burris’s best game was against Montana State, which is probably why coach Sprinkle recruited him. Burris put on a show grabbing his only first double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

Burris is set up to be the building block for this team. With the experienced players around him, he can learn and grow from them. If he can live up to his first year and develop his game, he can be an asset on both ends of the floor. Burris is known for his offense. However, with Sprinkle and Darius Brown, his defensive game could make him a terrifying player to go against. With another year under his belt, and his talent and skills continuing to get better, it can make him a star for the Aggies.

Key analytic: Free-Throw Rate

With a new coach, the expectation of what Utah State was last year is not what to look at. Looking at Montana State from last year, the impressive number was their free-throw rate. This team was fourth in this category.

Many may ask, what is the free-throw rate? It is free-throws made divided by field goals attempted. When coach Sprinkle’s team got to the line, they converted. This also shows that the Utah State Aggies will likely not take many 3-pointers but will work shots into the arc for easy buckets. Montana State was in the bottom 80 in 3-point rate and 3P%. Sprinkle’s teams focus on defense, brilliant shots, and creating turnovers.

This Aggies team will be very different from last year when anyone looks at the offense. Last year, the team was very offensive, being at the top in many categories. With the incoming players, the Aggies will likely be more of a grind-it-out team with a slower pace of play. The stats that have been weak for coach Sprinkle’s teams could easily change, but it will be based on the players that come into Utah State.

Utah State Aggies 2023-24 projections

Projected conference finish: 5th in Mountain West Conference

Projected postseason ceiling: NCAA Tournament – Round of 64

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