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