Locals may get shut out of NCAAs for first time since '94

Published: Sunday, Jan. 27 2013 5:31 p.m. MST

Utah Utes guard Glen Dean (1) and Brigham Young Cougars guard Matt Carlino (10) battle for the ball in Provo Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012. BYU won 61-58.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — For the first time in a long time, we may not have a local team playing in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Can you believe it’s been 19 years since we’ve had no teams in the Big Dance? You have to go back to 1994 to find a year when all of the local teams stayed home.

Of course, all of the local teams, from BYU to SUU still have a chance to go to the NCAAs. That’s the beauty of conference postseason tournaments, where anybody can win a bunch of games in a given week and earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

However, it’s not looking good right now for anyone to make it as an at-large team in the 68-team tourney.

BYU has the best chance with a 16-6 record and a pretty easy schedule coming up over the next three weeks until they must play St. Mary’s and Gonzaga again.

The Cougars have no signature wins to their credit and except for the loss to St. Mary’s, every loss has been by double digits.

The best hope for the Cougars is to get hot and sweep through the WCC tourney in Las Vegas in March. If they can’t do that, but win their last nine regular-season games and make the finals of the tourney, they may sneak in as an at-large. But even that may not be enough.

Utah State looked like it might be making its ninth NCAA trip since 2000 when it jumped out to a 14-1 record. However the Aggies have lost four straight games besides losing their top two scorers for the season. At this point, with three straight road games coming up, the Aggies are more worried about getting a single victory than making it to the NCAAs.

Utah would have to make a run through the Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas with four straight victories in four nights to make its first NCAA tourney since 2009. Even though the Utes have shown they can play with anyone in the league, they’re not going to beat four Pac-12 teams in four nights.

Weber State is having another fine season under coach Randy Rahe and started the Big Sky season 8-0. But over the weekend, the Wildcats lost games at Montana State and Montana. The Wildcats will face the postseason tourney bugaboo and this year they won’t have Damian Lillard helping them along.

Southern Utah may have a bright future under new coach Nick Robinson, but at 7-12 overall, they’re not going anywhere this year. As for Utah Valley, its league still doesn’t get an automatic berth and at 9-12, the Wolverines are a long way from an at-large berth.

So while the NCAAs may be a longshot for Utah teams, there are always the thrilling NIT, CBI and CIT tournaments for some of the locals to look forward to, right?

LOW SCORING: What is it with scoring in college basketball games these days? Can anybody make a basket any more?

Scoring has been going down for some time now — the days of 105-95 games in the 1960s and ‘70s are long gone. Nowadays you see final scores that look like halftime scores of the past.

Just look at some of the scores from Saturday, even from the better teams.

New Mexico, the 15th-ranked team in the country could only manage 34 points in a 55-34 loss to San Diego State. No. 12 Minnesota was beaten by Wisconsin 45-44. Wyoming, having one of its best seasons in years, managed just 48 points in a loss to Air Force, two weeks after scoring just 36 in a loss to Fresno State. Bradley scored 39 in a loss to Wichita State.

The ultimate, however, was Northern Illinois, which scored a paltry 25 points in a 42-25 loss to Eastern Michigan. The Huskies set a record by making just 13.1 percent of their field goals and just 3.0 percent from 3-point range, going an abysmal 1 for 33. They scored a grand total of 4 points in the first half.

Thanks to a late rally, however, the Huskies avoided the modern record for fewest points in a game set by Rick Majerus’ Saint Louis team in 2008 when it scored just 20 in a loss to George Washington.

BOYLEN’S BOYS: Talked to former Utah coach Jim Boylen, who is now an assistant for the Indiana Pacers Saturday night before the Pacers’ game with the Utah Jazz.

He seemed very happy in his current job and didn’t express any bitterness about being let go at Utah in 2011.

However when he talked about the former players he still keeps in touch with and how well they’re doing, he did lament, “we had the pieces,’’ to have a good team.

Boylen was talking about Will Clyburn, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds Saturday in leading Iowa State to another victory in its 14-5 season and J.J. O’Brien, who led the way for San Diego State with 12 points and 10 rebounds in that big victory over New Mexico.

And then there’s Marshall Henderson, who started most games as a freshman for the Utes in 2009-10. All Henderson is doing it lighting up the SEC for Mississippi with a 19.2 average as Ole Miss is off to its best start in decades at 17-2.

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