LAS VEGAS Now it's a waiting game for the Utah men's basketball team.
After losing to UNLV Friday night in the Mountain West Conference Tournament, the Utes' hopes for an NCAA Tournament were dashed. However, they still have hopes of continuing their season this week.
Because of prior arrangements and an inability to get a flight out on Saturday, the Utes were stuck in Las Vegas for an extra day and were scheduled to arrive home late this morning.
By sometime this evening after they return, the Utes should know whether they have an invitation to the NIT, the new College Basketball Invitational or nothing at all.
Coach Jim Boylen is hoping for somewhere to play.
"We'll play in any tournament we can," said Boylen, "I think there's no better proving ground, there's no better place to grow than a one-game elimination tournament where you have to win to move on. My team needs that pressure. We need that development. I'm hoping and praying that we get to play somewhere. If not, we'll be in the weight room and we'll start next year that day."
So what are the Utes' chances?
As far as the NIT goes, it doesn't look good.
If New Mexico (24-8) doesn't get an NCAA bid, it will be a prime candidate for the NIT. So will San Diego State, which has a better record (20-12) than Utah's 17-14 mark. In a 32-team tournament, which is required to take regular-season champions from every conference that don't make the NCAAs, it's unlikely three teams from the MWC will be selected.
That leaves the CBI.
It is a 16-team tournament, played at campus sites, culminating with a three-game series It is being put on by the Gazelle Group, which produces several early-season "exempt" tournaments such as the Coaches vs. Cancer and Legends Classic.
The schedule calls for first-round games Tuesday and Wednesday, second- and third-round games March 24 and 26, with a best-of-three finals to be played March 31, April 2 and April 4. That's a possibility of six additional games for Utah or other teams selected.
Some schools such as Washington, a team that defeated Utah earlier this season, have indicated a desire to play in the new tournament. Last week before he left for his duties as a member of the NCAA Men's Selection Committee, Utah athletic director Chris Hill said he would be agreeable to the Utes playing in the CBI, if it didn't make the NCAA or NIT.
According to the Kansas City Star, two Big 12 teams, Missouri and Oklahoma State, have indicated a lack of interest in playing in the CBI. Missouri athletic director Mike Alden rejected the idea because schools are being asked for a guarantee of $60,000 for hosting a first-round game.
So what other teams might be involved in the CBI?A website called NIT-ology lists teams such as Virginia, Alabama, Seton Hall, UTEP and Bradley, in addition to Utah and Washington.