Two weeks. Well, a little less than two weeks. Twelve days, to be exact.
College basketball commences nationwide on Nov. 8. Utah will be no different, as all four major local Division I teams begin the season to varying degrees of difficulty. One sentiment is present, however. I’m sure nobody associated with hoops in the state wants to see the top programs shut out when March comes around and NCAA Tournament bids are handed out.
For me? That was depressing a bit to witness a down year in the cycle. Yes, BYU rode Tyler Haws to the semifinal round of the NIT. Yes, Larry Krystkowiak coaxed four wins out of his Utah squad in its last five games, including victories over California and Oregon. Yes, Stew Morrill won his annual 20 games with Utah State.
But nobody made the Big Dance. Nobody made it into anyone’s conversation on a national level. Heck, even Weber State lost in the Big Sky Tournament in a heartbreaker to Montana.
As a journalist covering local college basketball, I was bored. As a general fan of college basketball, I was disappointed. It was the first time in quite a while that the state found itself shut out.
I don’t think that’s going to happen again.
There’s too much talent on hand. BYU has Haws — one of the elite scorers in the country — and a non-conference schedule that should land an at-large bid if negotiated successfully. Utah State is now in the Mountain West. The Aggies also have an experienced, senior-laden core that could easily finish fourth in the MWC. If the past is any indication, the fourth-place team in the Mountain West gets into the tournament.
Utah has it’s most talented and most athletic bunch in Krystkowiak’s three-year tenure. The Utes aren’t highly thought of by the pundits, but I have a feeling this will be Utah’s best team since 2009. At the least, the Utes are a postseason squad. What kind of postseason remains to be seen.
Lastly, not many talk about Weber State, but Randy Rahe’s crew is a significant favorite to win the Big Sky. They’ve done that plenty in the regular season. Now, the Wildcats have to win the conference tournament and get an automatic bid.
Yes, Nov. 8 lends itself to plenty of optimism for the teams in Utah and their respective fan bases. And if you look at the rosters, at least one fan base will be pretty happy come Selection Sunday.
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