Even though BYU has been the dominant team in Western Athletic Conference golf for the past two decades (13 of the last 17 titles) and even though Utah is the defending champion with nearly the same team back this year, neither of the two Utah schools are considered favorites in the WAC golf tournament, which begins Thursday morning.

The favorites instead will be UTEP, one of the top-ranked teams in the country, and New Mexico, the host team and winner of last week's Cougar Classic over Utah, BYU and 10 other teams.The 54-hole tournament will be played through Saturday on the par-72, 7,246-yard UNM South Course with 18 holes each day.

All nine WAC teams will be playing in this week's tourney with five-man teams. The low four scores each day will count towards the team score.

Besides UTEP, New Mexico, BYU and Utah, San Diego State is considered a possible contender.

Even that eternal optimist, BYU Coach Karl Tucker, says his team should finish third or fourth.

"New Mexico will be tough on its home course - and UTEP is one of the top five teams in the country," he said.

But never count the Cougars out. The Cougs may be young (no players back from last year's WAC tourney) but they were in contention all the way at the Sun Devil Classic two weeks ago before having an off week at the Cougar Classic.

BYU will be led by freshman Ramon Brobio, sophomore Roberto Herrera and senior Rafael Ponce.

Utah Coach Ron Branca would dearly love to repeat as champ and he feels his inconsistent team is playing its best golf of the year right now. His main concern is beating San Diego State to have a chance of making the NCAA regionals later this month.

For the first time ever, a regional will be held to determine the field for the NCAAs. Six teams will be taken from Region VII and it looks like UTEP, New Mexico, BYU, Nevada-Reno and Weber State have wrapped up the first five berths.

"We need to beat San Diego to make sure we make the regionals," said Branca.

The Utes are led by Matt Johnson, last year's WAC medalist, Doug Roberts and Devin Dehlin.

Among the top players from other teams include UTEP's David Bishop and Paul Stankowski, New Mexico's Derek Crawford and Kent Jones and Wyoming's Chris Conley.