The two hottest teams in the WAC or probably the West, are Utah and BYU, who meet tonight in the Huntsman Center.
Regardless of what happens tonight, Utah looks like a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament, now that it officially has 20 victories (three wins against non-Division I foes don't count in NCAA eyes).BYU although it may be the hottest team going, will very likely need a WAC tourney victory to have any chance of making the 64-team tourney again, thanks to 10 losses.
Both teams are limited in their postseason possibilities.
Because Utah is hosting a sub-regional again, its chances for first round games are limited. An NCAA rule instituted two years ago forbids teams from playing on their own home floor in the NCAAs. But another rule forbids them from playing on the same dates as the regional they're hosting.
That means the Utes would have to play in one of the four Friday-Sunday regionals since they're hosting a Thursday-Saturday sub-regional March 14-16. The Friday-Sunday regionals will be played at Syracuse, Atlanta, Dayton and Tucson.
The Cougars, as usual, only have two possibilities for their first-round NCAA game because of the school's policy of not playing any games on Sunday. One is the Salt Lake regional, since the West Regional in Seattle is a Thursday-Saturday affair. The other possibility is Louisville, which feeds into the Thursday-Saturday Southeast Regional in Charlotte, N.C.IMPOSSIBLE DREAMS: As for the other state's major colleges, their chances are impossible, next-to-impossible and very unlikely.
Southern Utah's chances of making the NCAAs as an independent, which weren't big to begin with, went kaput with a recent slide that saw them fall to 13-10 on the season.
Utah State's chances of making it are next to impossible. With a 10-12 record, the Aggies aren't going to make it without winning the Big West Tournament. And to do that, they must knock off UNLV or have a fellow league member do the deed. Lots of luck.
Weber State's chances are better than the Aggies or the T-Birds, assuming they squeeze into the six-team Big Sky Tourney. The Wildcats just need to get hot for three days, win three games against beatable competition and they're on their way to the NCAAs.NCAA CHANGE: The NCAA, which hasn't altered its format the last few years since settling on a 64-team tourney in 1985, is making a slight alteration this year.
A new play-in format has been implemented for the 1991 tourney, where six conferences will compete for the final three automatic berths. The Northeast Conference will host the Patriot League, the Southland Conference will host the Mid-Eeastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference will host the Big South Conference. These play-in games must be completed by midnight, March 9. The main tourney starts the following week.
Thirty-three Division I conferences are eligible for the 30 automatic qualifying postions in the 64-team bracket.
The NCAA says it doesn't plan on expanding the field before 1998. LOCAL TOURNEYS: The various college basketball tournaments will be played just three weeks from now on the weekend of March 6-10. The WAC Tourney will be played in Laramie March 6-9, the Big West will go back to an eight-team tourney at Long Beach March 8-10 and the Big Sky will be a six-team affair at the home of the regular-season champ (likely Montana or Nevada).
Based on the current standings and the remaining schedule, here's how the tourneys stack up.
In the WAC, Utah would meet the winner of the Air Force-Colorado State first-round game. No. 2 BYU would play Hawaii and host Wyoming would play San Diego State. Southwest rivals New Mexico and UTEP would play in the 4 vs. 5 game.
In the Big West, it would be UNLV against Long Beach State, New Mexico State against Fresno State, Pacific against UC Santa Barbara and Utah State against Fullerton.
In the Big Sky, where the first two teams (Montana and Nevada) get a bye, No. 3 Idaho would meet Idaho State and Weber would play Montana State with the winners advancing to the semifinals.
Of course don't hold us to the above matchups. There's still time for plenty of upsets during the next couple of weeks. CRUMMY YEAR: Louisville, one of the nation's top teams during the past decade (two NCAA titles during the '80s), has had a year it would sooner forget.
Among the negatives for Coach Denny Crum and his Cardinals:
- CBS's "60 Minutes" aired a report on Louisville's problems in December.
- The Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Crum's player-graduation rate during the 1980s was pathetic. Between 1981 and 1989, only six of 37 players on scholarship - 16.2 percent - graduated after five years in school.
- Crum drew criticism late last year when he campaigned for money for the school's non-revenue teams. That might appear admirable, but Crum was doing it at the expense of scholarships for minority students. Crum led coaches and athletes from 15 other sports in a demonstration outside the Student Activities Center, which perturbed university officials.
Then there's the basketball team. Louisville sits in dead last in the Metro Conference with a 2-8 record and is 8-12 overall. Since the inception of the Metro in 1975-76, the Cardinals have finished first or second every year except one, when they finished fourth. The only way the Cards can make the NCAAs this year is by winning the Metro tourney.
"We've had a lot of great moments over the years and a lot of disappointments," said Crum. "That's the nature of sports. You've got to learn to deal with both. We obviously aren't going to win the regular championship, so our goal is to win the tourney."
Some reports out of Louisville say that Crum may take his 471-168 career record elsewhere after this season.