Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

Commentary: What BYU, Utah, Utah State, WSU, UVU and SUU need to do to make the NCAA Tournament (6 items)

By , Deseret News

Jan. 23, 2014

As March Madness approaches, Utah's six Div. I teams dream of dancing in this year's NCAA Tournament. None of these teams are locks for the Big Dance, and most of them simply won't have the résumé to pick up an at-large bid even if they run the table the rest of the regular season. However, all six teams can play Cinderella if they win their respective conference tournaments.

However, BYU and Utah can still improve their chances of picking up an at-large bid, but they need to move quickly. March is just around the corner.

So, what do Utah's local teams need to do to make the NCAA Tournament this year?

Lafe Peavler is a sports writer for the Deseret News. Follow him on Twitter @LafePeavler

1 of 6. Southern Utah University

Current Record: 1-14

Current RPI: 342

Current Status: Needs an unprecedented miracle and win the Big Sky Conference Tournament

SUU's chances of making the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history are too small to approximate, but the Thunderbirds still have a chance.

Consider, for a moment, this possibility: All season long SUU has secretly hidden all of its talent and ability to win and will continue to do so until the Big Sky Tournament. Then, after everyone has written the Thunderbirds off, SUU suddenly unleashes all of its pent-up ability and stuns everyone on its way to becoming the first team in NCAA history to make the Big Dance with just one regular-season win.

Likely? No. The odds of winning the lottery and getting struck by lightning on the same day are probably greater than SUU making the tournament. Nonetheless, it's still a possibility.

2 of 6. Weber State University

Current Record: 8-6

Current RPI: 205

Current Status: Must win Big Sky Conference Tournament

If last year's 30-win squad couldn't pick up an at-large bid, there's no way the Wildcats can convince the committee to let them in. A loss to Montana in the Big Sky finals was enough to doom Weber State last year.

That doesn't mean that the Wildcats couldn't make a run at this year's Big Sky Tournament. The conference isn't particularly strong as Northern Colorado is the only team with more than 10 wins. Weber State is underperforming right now, but it could easily bounce back at exactly the right time.

3 of 6. Utah Valley University

Current Record: 10-7

Current RPI: 150

Current Status: Needs to win the Western Athletic Conference Tournament

While UVU doesn't have a win over a Top 200 team, it still has a decent chance of making the Big Dance. The Wolverines are currently the only unbeaten team in WAC play, and everyone else has at least two losses except Chicago State which has one. The Wolverines could be the No. 1 seed in the WAC Tournament this March, and all they have to do is win the title to go dancing.

That's why ESPN's Joe Lunardi, CBSSports' Jerry Palm and NBCSports' Dave Ommen all have UVU in the field of 68 as a No. 15 or No. 16 seed.

4 of 6. University of Utah

Current Record: 14-4

Current RPI: 131

Current Status: Needs road wins

Despite Utah's low RPI, the Utes already has some nice wins on their résumé. Utah has four wins over the RPI Top 100 and two Top 50 wins over UCLA and BYU.

Utah's biggest obstacle is not its weak non-conference schedule. The Pac-12 is strong enough this season to overcome that. No, the biggest red flag the selection committee will see is that the Utes have yet to win a game outside the friendly confines of the Huntsman Center.

The Utes have plenty of opportunities to pick up a quality road win. Utah has let some opportunities get away from them, including at Boise State, Washington and Washington State. Utah has another opportunity Thursday night at Arizona State, and it needs to start winning those games.

5 of 6. Utah State University

Current Record: 12-6

Current RPI: 97

Current Status: Needs to win the Mountain West Conference Tournament

Utah State's transition to the Mountain West Conference has been anything but smooth. The Aggies are 2-4 in conference, and that includes a devastating 73-72 loss to No. 225 Air Force. Even if the Aggies were to upset San Diego State, there's no way for the Aggies to build a good enough résumé to earn an at-large bid.

The MWC Tournament is the Aggies' only hope. Problem is, this tournament is still held on UNLV's home floor.
1. Marked it Down
Park City, UT,
Jan. 23, 2014

#40 BYU is the only Utah team with a legitimate chance of getting an at-large bid. BYU will have to win all of their remaining home games and not lose any road games except to Gonzaga and perhaps Saint Mary's, otherwise BYU will have to win the WCC tournament.

#121 Utah would have to go on an incredible road winning streak to get an at-large bid, and for a team that's only won 1 of 19 road games in the PAC 12, that's an almost impossible expectation. With ASU, Arizona, Colorado, USC (which just beat California), UCLA, California, and Stanford all on the road, the Utes would have to get extremely lucky to pick up more than a couple of wins. With 2 roads, and a likely maximum of no more than 3 more home wins, the Utes would only have a 19-11 record with 9 of those wins coming against teams ranked in the bottom 100 or non-Div 1 teams.

UVU and Weber St have legitimate chances of winning their conference tournaments to secure auto-bids.

USU has little chance of winning the MWC tournament. SUU no chance.

2. Mike Johnson
Stafford, VA,
Jan. 23, 2014

Dixie State has the best opportunity of all the Utah schools in going to an NCAA tournament. They are 14-2 right now, 5-2 in conference on the road, 2-0 in conference at home. They have 6 more home conference games and 3 more road conference games. The conference tournament will be at Point Loma, where they play Saturday night. They beat UNLV in the Thomas and Mack Center.

If one Utah team goes to a big dance, my money would be on Dixie State.