The unofficial beginning of the 3A state tournament got off to a rousing start in Tuesday night’s Region 12 play-in game when Juab beat North Sanpete in overtime on a half-court heave by Ryker Osborne.

If that dramatic finish is any indication of things to come when the tourney tips off officially with Saturday’s first round, the next week of 3A basketball should be exciting, to say the least.

Parity is the talking point heading into the tourney, as nearly half the teams can make a legitimate case as a state title contender, highlighted of course by No. 1 Dixie. After the Flyers — last year’s 3A runner-up — there’s a lengthy list of other strong teams that includes the rest of Region 9, most of Region 11 and a couple of strong teams from 12.

First things first, however —take care of business in the openers.

The tourney tips Saturday evening with eight first-round games scattered across the state at home sites from St. George to Logan and Grantsville to Roosevelt. The eight winners advance to the 3A quarterfinals the following Thursday at Southern Utah University, the site where many believe the “real” state tournament begins.

Canyon View arguably stands to benefit more than anyone with a victory over Morgan in the first round.

Canyon View High School is just seven minutes from The Centrum on the campus of SUU, whereas nearly every other 3A high school is over an hour away and some up to four and five hours away.

“I don’t know that there’s added pressure because the pressure’s there either way, but it’s definitely added motivation,” said Canyon View coach Rob Potter. “We know what Southern Utah teams do when they get there, and we have as good a chance as anybody if we can get to those final eight.”

Over the past decade, the 3A tournament has been contested in either Cedar City or St. George three times. Of the 12 semifinalists in those three tourneys, 10 were Southern Utah teams, with Pine View (2007) and Hurricane (2012) each winning state titles.

Only Morgan was able to overcome the home-crowd advantage for the Southern teams to capture the state title in 2014.

Juan Diego and Logan are among the Northern teams hoping to follow suit. Juan Diego won the Region 11 title and hosts Juab in the first round. Logan was the Region 11 runner-up and hosts Carbon.

The extremely young Grizzlies have won six straight, and coach Logan Brown likes the way his team is playing.

“I think we’re at the right point as far as our team’s level going into the state tournament. We seem to have a lot of momentum going and that’s always a good thing this time of year,” said Brown.

Perhaps the most intriguing storyline Saturday involves Region 9 and Region 10 crossover games. There’s no question Region 9 was the toughest league in 3A this year while Region 10 was the weakest. Region 9 teams will try to make it a clean sweep this weekend in the following four games — Stansbury at Dixie, Snow Canyon at Union, Pine View at Grantsville and Tooele at Desert Hills.

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: