It's time for March Madness, perhaps the greatest time of year in the sports world ...

Local fans will be focused this week on the Mountain West Conference tournament in Las Vegas, also known as the UNLV Invitational. As usual, the Rebels will be the favorites with their big homecourt advantage. However, after seeing sixth-place Utah come within a hair of knocking off the Rebels on Saturday, I wouldn't be surprised to see someone pull an upset this year. I still don't think UNLV is that good and with a weak bench, it may have a hard time surviving three days. BYU is the most likely to upset the Rebels, but the winner of the Utah-New Mexico first-rounder might have a shot ... ...

After watching every team in the conference in person at least twice this year, I've decided the MWC is definitely down this year, no doubt about it. The only decent non-conference victories were BYU's win over Louisville on a neutral court and Utah's road win over Cal. Still, the league might come away with three NCAA berths for the fourth time in league history. BYU and UNLV are locks and New Mexico should get in, although a first-round loss could put them on the bubble. The question is whether the league will get any NCAA tournament wins ...

Next year, the MWC should be much better. Most of the best players in the league are underclassmen. In fact, of the top 20 scorers in the league, 15 will be returning, including BYU's big three of Lee Cummard, Trent Plaisted and Jonathan Tavernari. Utah returns all of its top players except Johnnie Bryant. Of the 15 players who are likely to be named on the MWC all-conference teams later today, only four are seniors ...

It's time to be accountable for the predictions I made about the MWC race in March. They were pretty accurate except for Utah's record. After a solid 9-4 preseason, I pegged the Utes for 11-5 in the MWC behind BYU and New Mexico with UNLV and San Diego slightly behind, and the other four teams with losing records.

UNLV was a little better than expected at 12-4 as was Air Force, which finished at 8-8. But the Utes' 7-9 mark was the most disappointing of all. Sure, they were in every games until the final minute and lost two in overtime, one by one, one by three and the others by less than eight. Still a loss is a loss and the Utes never figured out a way to win the close ones ...

How about those Aggies? A couple of weeks ago they were in fourth place in the WAC, but they came through again with some big victories and all of a sudden they're the league champions with the No. 1 seed going into the tournament. Don't be surprised to see Stew Morrill's team in the NCAAs again. And congrats to Jaycee Carroll for winning player-of-the-year honors ...

Also give it up for Salt Lake Community College, which won the Region 18 championship Saturday night, stunning No. 3-ranked College of Southern Idaho on its homecourt. That puts the Bruins in the NJCAA Tournament for the first time in 14 years. Norm Parrish has done a terrific job in building that program ...

With a 22-game winning streak and a No. 15 ranking, I would expect the Utah women's team to win the MWC tournament this week and go to Albuquerque for the NCAA regional as a No. 3 seed and advance to the Sweet 16. However, I wonder how far the Utes will advance, considering they needed some late-game heroics to defeat a 2-26 Colorado State team the other night. Usually a women's game between a 26-3 team and a 2-26 team ends up something like 90-30 ...

Finally, did anyone see UCLA's two home wins over the weekend? Talk about lucky. Well, let's say fortunate. The Bruins trailed both Stanford and California nearly the whole way in both games. Against Stanford, the Bruins made up an 11-point deficit in the final minutes to force overtime with a controversial foul call with two seconds left. Then against Cal, they came back from a seven-point deficit in the final minutes to win by one point on a controversial basket that went over the backboard. Of course, teams that are 28-3 find their own luck. Let's see if the Bruins "luck" continues all the way to the NCAA title this year.


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