The State of Utah frequently sends at least one team to the men’s NCAA tournament, a remarkable feat considering how only six schools in the state play Division I basketball. You have to go back to 1989 for the last time no Utah schools made the tournament.
Dave Rose, head coach for BYU, missed the tournament his first season with the Cougars. In 2006, he led BYU to an NIT bid, then began a successful run of six straight seasons making the tournament. Opening this year, the Cougars were expected to lead a contingent of Utah schools back into the tournament.
Utah State was picked to win the WAC in its final season, and Weber State established itself at the top of the Big Sky.
Now that it looks Rose will fail to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006, the entire state is looking at zero bids for the first time since that fateful 1989 season.
The best hopes fall on Utah State and Weber State, who knew at the beginning of the season their bid hopes depended on their winning their conference tournaments this week.
A season that started with so much promise is turning sour quickly for the state. BYU failed to even reach its conference championship game, having fallen to San Diego in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference last Friday. As a result, the Cougars are hoping for an NIT bid when tournaments are announced Sunday.
Utah State dominated early play in the WAC, but key injuries derailed a promising season. Now the Aggies sit fifth in the WAC and will open their tournament Thursday night in Las Vegas.
They will face a hot UT Arlington team that swept the Aggies. The average margin of victory was 11 points in the two games. Without winning the WAC tournament, any postseason bid seems highly unlikely.
Weber State knew heading into this season that if it wanted a postseason bid, it needed to win the Big Sky. The team failed to clinch the regular season title, and with it a guaranteed postseason bid to at least the NIT. It fell to Montana by one game.
The Wildcats begin their tournament Thursday against seventh-seeded Northern Arizona. Barring an upset, the Wildcats and the Grizzlies should meet Saturday night to determine the league’s sole bid.
The University of Utah is the only team to play above its expectations this season, and those were admittedly low after last season’s 6-25 record and last-place finish in the PAC-12.
However, the Utes surprised many by finishing the regular season at 13-17, and improving to 10th overall in their new conference. They capped off the regular season with an upset win over top 25 ranked Oregon.
The Utes will also be in Las Vegas for their tournament, which opened last night against USC. Should Utah have won last night, the Utes will face California today.
Of all the Utah schools, the school with the best odds of representing the Beehive State is Weber State. The Wildcats enter the Big Sky Tournament having won their last 11 games, 10 against their conference foes.
Their last loss was to tourney host Montana, which beat the Wildcats 76-74 the last time they met in Montana. The Wildcats were down eight with 41 seconds remaining, but failed to make the comeback.
In Ogden, the Wildcats pounded the Grizzlies, winning 87-63. In the two matchups, the play of Kyle Tresnak, Davion Berry, and Frank Otis has been key.
The trio averaged a combined 48.5 points per game. The big difference between the two games was Weber State’s shooting from deep. In the loss at Missoula, the Wildcats shot 3-14 from deep, while they shot 8-17 at home.
If the Wildcats can shoot like they did in their home victory, they will have a solid shot at the upset and the automatic bid.