Utah college basketball fans are facing their bleakest March in a long, long time with no local teams in postseason play and no tournaments coming to town.

For only the second time since 1976 and only the third time since 1952, not one of the local "Big Four" colleges is going to a postseason tournament - either the NCAA or the NIT. And none were even close this year.Three of the state's Big Four had losing seasons (Utah 16-17, BYU 14-15 and Utah State 12-16), while Weber State limped home with a 17-11 record after a fast start.

And for the first time since 1978, the NCAA tournament won't be passing through Utah. Ever since the Final Four was played here in 1979, there has been either an NCAA regional or subregional in Utah.

So this year, local fans will have to grab a bag of Doritos and put their feet up in front of the TV set to get their fill of college basketball.

What happened this season? Well, nothing in particular. The state had a down year, true, but with nearly 300 schools playing Division I basketball now, it's harder than ever to maintain a top-quality program against all the competition. It could be a cycle, too. If the local schools can keep all the young talent in the high school ranks, they could all be going back to the NCAAs in the early 1990s.

As for the NCAAs not coming to Utah, it won't be long before they'll be back. The West subregionals are scheduled for the Marriott Center in Provo in 1990.