SALT LAKE CITY — March Madness is coming to town.
Although no Utah teams were invited to this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament, the Big Dance will still be playing in the state. The University of Utah is hosting second and third round games this week at EnergySolutions Arena.
Top-ranked Gonzaga (31-2) headlines a field of eight teams playing games Thursday at the home of the Utah Jazz. Mountain West Conference champion New Mexico (29-5) and Arizona (25-7) of the Pac-12 are among the other squads hoping to play again Saturday for berths in the Sweet 16.
The other teams headed to Utah include Pittsburgh (24-8), Wichita State (26-8), Belmont (26-6), Harvard (19-9) and Southern (23-9).
“With Gonzaga, New Mexico and Arizona coming here, it’s going to be a dynamic weekend and I’m sure a high demand for tickets,” said Utah athletics director Chris Hill.
This will be the 18th time that the university has hosted a portion of the tournament. Hill noted that his staff works hard to bring the event to Utah on a regular rotation. Tournament manager Steve Pyne confirmed that a bid will be submitted this summer in hopes of landing games again in 2016 or 2017.
“It makes its exciting for us to be a part of the biggest college event there is,” Hill said.
Utah hosted the West Regional Finals at the downtown arena in 2010. Butler, led by current Jazz swingman Gordon Hayward, prevailed and advanced to the Final Four.
In 1979, Utah played host to the Final Four. It culminated with an epic national championship game up on the hill. Magic Johnson and Michigan State defeated Larry Bird and Indiana State in the finals.
Besides 1979 and 2010, other portions of the tourney were hosted by Utah in 1968, 1971, 1981, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1993, 1995, 1997, 200, 2003 and 2006.
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