Utah State punches ticket to NCAA Tournament while UVU heads to NIT

The Aggies will play Missouri on Thursday in Sacramento. Season is over for Utah, BYU.

Utah State guard Steven Ashworth (3) and forward Dan Akin celebrate after defeating Boise State in an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, March 4, 2023, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)

There is only one men’s basketball team from Utah heading to the NCAA tournament this year, and that would be Utah State.

The Aggies are returning to the Big Dance for the first time since 2021, back when Craig Smith was in Logan. New USU head coach Ryan Odom has the program back in the tournament in his second season.

USU will play Missouri on Thursday in Sacramento as a No. 10-seed. It landed in the same region as No. 1 overall-seed Alabama, along with Baylor and Virginia.

“We realize it is going to be a tough matchup, but every game is hard,” Odom said. “Once you get to the tournament, it doesn’t matter your seed. It doesn’t matter, any of it. It is all about matchup and who is playing well at the time.”

For Odom personally, he is returning to March Madness for the first time since he led No. 16-seed Maryland-Baltimore County over Virginia in 2018. That was the biggest upset in tournament history.

Outside of the Aggies, Utah was shut out.

Utah Valley has never made the tournament, and that trend will continue. The Wolverines missed the NCAA tournament after going 25-8 and winning the Western Athletic Conference’s regular-season title in addition to beating Oregon on the road and BYU in Provo. They were undone by an 89-88 loss to Southern Utah in the WAC conference tournament semifinals. The Wolverines lost that game after giving up a 23-point lead and losing on a four-point play.

Still, UVU will get an automatic bid to the NIT after winning the regular season. It will play New Mexico on Wednesday at The Pit at 8 p.m.

SUU did not reach the NCAA tournament or NIT after losing to Grand Canyon University in the WAC tournament championship Saturday. It will play in the College Basketball Invitation, a pay-for-play tournament, starting Saturday. It will open up against North Alabama.

Other Utah teams that were left out include BYU and Utah. The Utes seemed like a lock for an NIT bid just a month ago. But after losing six-straight finish the year, it did not do enough and played itself out of contention.

BYU’s season also ended. This was perhaps the least surprising outcome. It had been out of the NIT and NCAA tournament picture for the last month after having its worst season in the Mark Pope era. It finished under .500 in WCC play.