March is here, and that means March Madness is coming. The most exciting time in college basketball is almost here. However, the tournament is always more exciting when we have teams from our state to cheer and root on to make the Final Four.
Last season two teams from the state were selected, BYU and Utah State. Unfortunately, this year hasn’t been the best for college basketball in the state. All seven Division I teams have had their ups and downs all season long. Who will make it into the tournament? The answer may surprise you.
The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is a 68-team single-elimination bracket split up into four regions. Any conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid. The other at-large bids are determined by record, schedule strength, and other factors.
To make the tournament is an honor for any team, and according to ESPN’s latest polls, the team with the best odds from Utah to make the tournament is Weber State, at a 24% chance. This may come as a surprise to many college basketball fans in Utah. Usually Utah has multiple teams in the tournament conversation, but this could be a year when Utah receives zero berths.
Let’s dive into the teams from the Beehive State with the best shot of making it into March Madness.
Coming into the season, Weber was ranked second in their conference behind Southern Utah. Behind a stellar offense that averages 77 points per game, Weber is in a three-team race for first place in the Big Sky. The team is in third place in the conference but is within striking distance of first. The team’s success has come from the offense, led by star guard Koby McEwen who averages 18 points per game.
According to Teamrankings Bracketology, the Wildcats have the best odds of any Utah team to make the tournament at 24%. Although they have the best odds, Weber only has one path: win the Big Sky conference tournament championship.
Right now, Weber sits in third place in the Big Sky. If they win that tournament, the Wildcats will receive an automatic bid. The Wildcat’s next game will be their biggest test of the season. On March 5th, they take on third-place Southern Utah in a huge rivalry matchup with major tournament seeding implications.
According to Teamrankings Bracketology, the Thunderbirds have a 22% chance of making it into the tournament. However, the Thunderbirds’ path into March Madness is similar to Webers State’s. Win the Big Sky tournament.
Unfortunately only one team will make it from the Big Sky Conference. The T-Birds are 18-9 and in second place. They are a half a game ahead of Weber State in the standings and are one game behind Montana State for the top seed. If the Thunderbirds can find a way to win the tournament, they will make it over rival Weber State, which makes March 5th a critical game for both teams.
BYU is no stranger to the NCAA tournament. Last season, the Cougars made it as a six seed, but were upset by the Cinderella team and 11-seed UCLA. The Bruins made it to the Final Four.
This season the team has not quite lived up to expectations. BYU was ranked a few times early in the year but quickly fell out of the polls after a few head-scratching losses to UVU, Santa Clara, and Pacific. Despite the disappointing losses, ESPN still had BYU as one of the four teams to make the tournament from the West Coast Conference. However, the Cougars’ chances have dropped entirely after a humiliating loss to San Francisco in Provo. The loss may help San Francisco get into the tournament, but now, according to Teamrankings Bracketology, BYU has but a 4% probability. If the Cougars want to make it to the dance, they will have to make a run in the West Coast Conference tournament and shock the nation’s top-seed Gonzaga along the way.
The Mountain West Conference has been one of the top conferences in all of college basketball. Four teams are expected to make the tournament, but Utah State isn’t likely to be one of them. Utah State’s current record is 16-14, and they can only advance to the NCAA tournament if they win the Mountain West tournament. The Aggies will likely be seeded sixth in the MWC tournament and will have to battle some strong competition to make it to March Madness.
The other Division I teams from Utah will likely not be attending March Madness unless they can find a way to win their conference tournament. The odds, even for the best teams, aren’t great. Weber and SUU both can’t make it, and both can miss out if another team, including Montana State, wins the conference.
BYU and Utah State both need to make a Cinderella run in their respective conference tournaments. Hopefully, one can sneak into March Madness, so Utah college basketball fans aren’t left hanging.