The NCAA hopes of the University of Utah women's basketball team will be riding on the High Country Athletic Conference tournament at Las Cruces, N.M., this weekend.

The winner of the four-team tournament, which includes New Mexico State, Wyoming and Colorado State in addition to Utah, gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament which starts next week.The Lady Utes, who won the HCAC regular-season title with a 9-1 record will meet fourth-place Colorado State, which finished at 3-7, at 6 p.m. Friday. If they win, the Lady Utes will play the winner of the New Mexico State-Wyoming game on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Earlier this year, the Lady Utes defeated New Mexico State 54-51 in Las Cruces. Their only loss was a 79-77 defeat at Wyoming last week in their final regular-season game.

"We never thought of stopping short of the conference title," said Lady Ute Coach Elaine Elliott. "It was very important to us and we're very proud of it, but we view it as just another step We're not done yet."

The Lady Utes are led by senior forward Cindy Lindsay, who has averaged 14.0 points and 7.3 rebounds this year. Gina Butters is close behind with a 13.8 average and just last week she set a single-season Ute assist record. She now has 160 for the year.

Other Lady Ute starters include Stephie Watrin, Melanie Brooks and Brenda Alcorn.

If the Utes don't win the HCAC tournament, there's a chance they could still be invited to the NCAAs as an at-large team because of their fine 22-5 overall record. There's also a chance if they do make the tournament, that they could host a first-round game next weekend at the Huntsman Center.