NBA Draft Feature: Sam Merrill, Utah State

Up next in our NBA Draft feature series is Sam Merrill of Utah State. Merrill is ranked 68th on ESPN’s Draft board, but beyond his basketball skill, his clutch gene alone is worth taking a late-round flier on this mid-major stud. Merrill was last seen hitting the buzzer-beating game-winner to take down heavily favored San Diego State in the Mountain West conference championship game. Over the course of the season, Merrill posted 19.7 points per game, and he turned it up a notch in the postseason, slapping 27.7 points per game on his opponents in the Mountain West Tournament. A 46.1% shooter, Merrill has been lauded with Mountain West awards, including Player of the Year after his junior year campaign.

Top Games

As mentioned before, Merrill saved his best for the brightest moments of the season. His best game of the season wasn’t even his 27-point performance against SDSU in the title game, but rather, his semifinal contest against Wyoming. Merrill put up 27 points on 9-15 shooting, closing out an upset bid by going 6-6 at the free throw line. Merrill shot 55.7% in the postseason, and he scored in bunches all season long. Merrill’s ability to drill three-pointers and his clutch gene are perfect matches for the evolving style of play in the NBA. 

Projection

Merrill ranks #68 on the draft board, and he is the fourteenth-ranked shooting guard in this draft class. He may not hear his name called during the draft, but teams will regret that, and whoever snares Merrill, be it late in the second round or as an undrafted free agent, will be getting a steal, and a gutsy player with some solid upside. 

Prediction: Undrafted, Signs with San Antonio Spurs
Gutsy and clutch. It’s the type of player that makes me think of Greg Popovich’s system. I like the idea of Merrill playing in that San Antonio system. He may need a little polishing, but if Merrill keeps improving as the lights get brighter, he’ll find himself on an NBA court more often than not.

Mountain West Conference Tournament Predictions: Will anyone knock off SDSU?

A lot of mid-major conferences may have a favorite, but the chaotic nature of March often strips away any certainty as to what the result of any postseason tournament will be. However, in the case of the Mountain West Conference, home of one of three mid-major teams ranked in the Top 5 in the recent AP Poll, it would be a stunner to see anyone but #5 San Diego State takes home the conference title. The Aztecs are the only team that could get in with an at-large bid, so it will take a huge upset for the Mountain West to qualify two teams for March this year.
Here are three brackets predicting how this tournament plays out, with a breakdown of the picks, followed by our full brackets.
Breakdown
Champion Picks – San Diego State (3 picks)
Runners Up Picks – Utah State (1), Nevada (1), Colorado State (1)
Most Common Upset – 9. Air Force def. 8. Fresno State (2 picks)

Nathaniel’s Bracket
First Round
6. Colorado State def. 11. Wyoming
7. New Mexico def. 10. San Jose State
9. Air Force def. 8. Fresno State
Quarterfinals
1. San Diego State def. 9. Air Force
2. Utah State def. 7. New Mexico
3. Nevada def. 6. Colorado State
4. UNLV def. 5. Boise State
Semifinals
1. San Diego State def. 4. UNLV
2. Utah State def. 3. Nevada
Championship
1. San Diego State def. 2. Utah State

Andrew’s Bracket
First Round
6. Colorado State def. 11. Wyoming
7. New Mexico def. 10. San Jose State
9. Air Force def. 8. Fresno State
Quarterfinals
1. San Diego State def. 9. Air Force
2. Utah State def. 7. New Mexico
3. Nevada def. 6. Colorado State
4. UNLV def. 5. Boise State
Semifinals
1. San Diego State def. 4. UNLV
3. Nevada def. 2. Utah State
Championship
1. San Diego State def. 3. Nevada

Aidan’s Bracket
6. Colorado State def. 11. Wyoming
7. New Mexico def. 10. San Jose State
8. Fresno State def. 9. Air Force
Quarterfinals
1. San Diego State def. 8. Fresno State
2. Utah State def. New Mexico
6. Colorado State def. 3. Nevada
4. UNLV def. 5. Boise State
Semifinals
1. San Diego State def. 4. UNLV
6. Colorado State def. 2. Utah State
Championship
1. San Diego State def. 6. Colorado State