Judge coach Jim Yerkovich didn't beat around the bush when asked about the upcoming 3A boys basketball tournament.
"Basketball tournaments are probably the most unpredictable events in sports," he said, adding, "but I certainly like it being here more than St. George. Of all the tournaments I've coached in that was the toughest atmosphere."
Pine View and Dixie both now in 4A took advantage of that partisan crowd down south to advance to the title game, with Pine View eventually winning it. The E Center, the site of this year's tournament, is a much more neutral setting. Now it's up to Judge, and several of the other favorites, to get there.
The opening round begins this Saturday at home sites, with the next three rounds slated for the E Center next week. Every year the nature of the tournament seems to put extra pressure on the home teams, who know they're an upset away from being left out of the state tournament festivities.
Unlike last year in which all eight higher seeds advanced out of the first round, an upset or two is definitely possible this year.
Even top-ranked Delta isn't immune to a potential upset. The Rabbits host Grantsville this Saturday, a team it narrowly beat by five points last December.
"They're a scary team. They're a good team, and it's a onenight thing," said Delta coach Jared Smith. "I think last year being in the state tournament we got some experience there, so I think the kids are focused."
The winner of that game faces the winner of the Morgan at Wasatch game, easily the most anticipated first-round matchup.
Other first-round games are Emery at Cedar, Union at Logan, Juan Diego at Canyon View, Park City at Bear River, Ogden at Judge and Uintah at North Sanpete.
Region 8 champion Delta, Region 10 champion Judge and Region 11 champ Bear River are regarded as the top three teams in 3A, but Region 9 champion Cedar definitely has the potential to put together a four-game winning streak.At 15-6, the Redmen already have a win over Delta under their belts in addition to a narrow loss last week to Snow Canyon, one of the top-ranked teams in 4A. In fairness, in mid-January Cedar lost to that same Snow Canyon team by 42, so consistency is definitely an issue.