Matisse Thybulle, Jaylen Nowell on NCAA Tournament memories
Craig Smith said he heard the comparison on a telecast, and it all likelihood it was Mike Hopkins who said it.
Hopkins has compared senior guard Matisse Thybulle to all kinds of people — real and fictional — over the past two years. But he’s used one more often than the others: Deion Sanders.
And when Utah State’s head coach was asked about Thybulle on Thursday, that’s exactly the description he chose, too.
“When Deion Sanders played, it was like he eliminated whatever side of the field (he was on),” Smith said. “(Thybulle) is so instinctive, so quick twitch, so long and his hands are just so fast, right?
“For a guy to average playing zone over three steals a game with two blocked shots a game is incredible. And he does it while staying disciplined. He’s not just running all over the place gambling and out of position. So he dominates the game in such a different way that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it from that respect.”
The back-to-back Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a Naismith Defensive Player of the Year finalist, Thybulle is the only player in the country averaging 3.4 steals and 2.3 blocks per game.
As he watched film on UW this week, Smith could see why.
“I’ve had to take a lot of Advil over the last four days,” Smith said, “because he’s a headache.”
Aggies senior guard Sam Merrill said one of the first things he noticed about Thybulle was his 7-foot wingspan.
“He does a great job anticipating passing lanes and blocking shots from behind,” Merrill said. “They have a lot of good athletes and guys with length in their zone.
“So we’re just going to have to play the way that we’ve played all year, and we do that by sharing the ball, by moving the ball, by trying to be smart, high IQ basketball players. And he’s going to make some plays. That’s what this tournament is about. The best players make plays.”
As Smith closed his remarks on Thybulle, he turned his attention to the other players on the Huskies’ roster. He talked about Jaylen Nowell being named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. He touched on Noah Dickerson’s all-league honors.
And then he got to point guard David Crisp.
“(He’s) had a phenomenal season, senior year,” Smith said. “I actually did a home visit with him and his parents when I was an assistant at Nebraska. His mom can really cook. It was incredible food. It was like, ‘Wow.’”
Smith was an assistant coach at Nebraska from 2012-14 when the Cornhuskers offered Crisp, who remembered the meeting well.
“It’s just crazy where this basketball lifestyle takes you,” Crisp said. “You meet so many people. You make so many connections. That’s what I love about it. It’s just the world’s such a small place. I remember he was a cool guy. Cool dude. It will definitely be good to see him again.