With the Utah basketball team making an early exit from the WAC tournament, the Ute players, coaches and fans have had plenty of time to contemplate their NCAA fate.
Will they possibly still get a No. 2 seed? Is a No. 3 seed more likely? Can they fall to a No. 4 or even a No. 5?Will they be heading up the freeway to Boise, as easy as a drive to St. George? Or will they be sent packing 2,000 miles away to Hartford, Conn., or Washington, D.C.?
Will they get put in the same bracket as Kentucky for the third straight year?
The answers will be forthcoming today at 4:30 p.m. when the NCAA brackets are revealed on CBS (Ch. 5).
Most of the players and fans would just as soon stay out West, where it would be easier for their friends and families to see them. Coach Rick Majerus and the media covering the team would just as soon go to a nice warm place, but there's only one southern subregional, in Atlanta.
Actually, Majerus has one place he'd prefer out of the eight subregionals - Chicago. "I'd like warm weather, but Chicago is like home to me," he said. Majerus is from nearby Milwaukee and coached in Indiana.
As for a possible Ute opponent, the list is fairly small. If they are a No. 3 or 4 seed, they'll be playing a 13 or 14 seed, which are almost always champions of the smaller conferences. The Utes are likely to get matched up with someone like Delaware, Valparaiso, South Carolina State or Farleigh Dickinson. Or perhaps Davidson, San Francisco or the College of Charleston.
The Utes practiced Saturday and will practice again today before the players get together at one of their homes to watch the selection show. Majerus will head to Los Angeles to do one of his TV gigs for ESPN. The team will have Monday off before practicing in earnest on Tuesday.
CHANGE OF PLANS: The general consensus among most prognosticators has been that Utah would receive a No. 2 seed and stay in the West. That was before the Utes' stunning loss Thursday to UNLV.
Now it looks like they'll be a third or fourth seed. NCAA tournament chairman C.M. Newton indicated as much on a CBS halftime show Saturday.
When asked about first-round upsets in conference tournaments, Newton said, "It really affects the seedings. We had tentatively seeded the top four in each region, but the upsets to Utah and Michigan State really confused things."
It might seem logical that the Utes will stay out West for the NCAAs. However, the NCAA committee usually tries to keep conference champions in their own regions. So even though the No. 5 Utes are the highest-ranked team from the WAC, they aren't the official WAC champion, which means the WAC tournament champ may stay out West, and the Utes will go elsewhere.
Two years ago everyone was certain the Utes would stay in the West and go to Albuquerque. Instead they were sent to the Midwest Regional in Dallas after losing to New Mexico in the WAC tournament.
NO KENTUCKY, PLEASE: One thing the Utes do hope to avoid is another tournament matchup with Kentucky, which they've had two years running and three times in the last five years.
But look out, it could happen.
Because Kentucky is hosting a subregional in Lexington, the Wildcats can't go to that regional or the other subregional the same days (Friday and Sunday) in Atlanta. That means they must go to one of the Thursday-Saturday subregionals, which are in the East and the West.
In fact, Joe Lunardi's Blue Ribbon NCAA projection on ESPN has Kentucky as the No. 2 seed and Utah No. 3 at Boise.
NCAA WATCH: Yeah, we said Monday's would be the final NCAA Watch, but we'll favor you with one more.
The top seeds haven't changed and Kentucky, Connecticut and Purdue look like solid No. 2 seeds. Utah has dropped to a No. 3 with its first-round exit at the WAC tournament and been replaced by Cincinnati, the Conference USA champ. South Carolina and Stanford have moved up with good weeks, while Michigan State and TCU have dropped a notch.
NCAA Tourney Watch
West (March 12 and 14)
Where: Boise, Idaho, Sacramenta, Ca.
Midwest (March 13 and 15)
Where: Oklahoma City, Okla., Chicago, Ill.
3. S. Carolina
East (March 12 and 14)
Where: Hartford, Conn., Washington D.C.
South (March 13 and 15)
Where: Atlanta, Ga., Lexington, Ky.
1. N. Carolina
4. Michigan State
On the bubble: Illinois, UCLA, Michigan, New Mexico
*By the Deseret News if the NCAA selections were held today.