SALT LAKE CITY — Some say it’s the worst year for local college basketball in a couple of decades and it’s true that this is the first year since 1994 that no local college teams made it to NCAA Tournament.
On the other hand, how often is a local team still playing in April? It happens rarely yet this year we have three local teams still alive and kicking as we head into April.
The BYU and Weber State men’s teams and Utah women are all still playing games that count and will be playing this week in New York, Ogden and Manhattan, Kansas, respectively.
A lot of folks may diminish the accomplishments of BYU making the NIT Final Four, the Wildcats being in the finals of the College Insider Tournament (CIT) and the Ute women being in the semifinals of the WNIT. To get to this point, BYU has won three additional games, while the Wildcats and Utes have each won four.
All three could be bringing home trophies later this week.
BYU meets Baylor Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden with the winner moving on to Thursday’s finals against the Maryland-Iowa winner.
Weber, which hit the 30-win mark with its win over Northern Iowa Saturday, will play East Carolina at home Tuesday night (6 p.m.) for the CIT championship
Utah plays at Kansas State Wednesday night then the winner of the Florida-Drexel game in the finals Saturday.
Sure none made the NCAA Tournament, but give them credit — they’re still playing in April when not many teams can make that claim.
NCAA SHOULD CHANGE: About 30 years ago, the NCAA changed policy to not allow teams to play NCAA games on their homecourts, as Utah did when it played (and lost to North Carolina) in the 1981 West Regional at the Huntsman Center.
Now it’s about time for the NCAA to change rules on allowing teams to play practically in their own backyards for the first couple of rounds.
This year, several schools were allowed to play their first two games within a couple of hours of their hometowns. And perhaps not coincidentally, most advanced to the regionals with a couple of wins.
Both Michigan and Michigan State played at Auburn Hills, which was 80 miles from East Lansing and 54 from Ann Arbor. Ohio State played at Dayton (75 miles), while Cal played at San Jose (39 miles), Louisville was at Lexington (77 miles) and Kansas and Kansas State both played at Kansas City within a couple of hours of Lawrence and Manhattan, Kansas.
Although it didn’t happen this year, it seems like almost every year that Duke and North Carolina are playing somewhere in North Carolina in their early-round NCAA games.
It’s not about selling tickets. Most NCAA regionals are sold out in advance, so they don’t need local teams to attract local fans. It may be about saving travel money, so teams don’t have to go as far, but really, it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the millions of dollars teams spend on travel.
The NCAA can still try to keep teams as close to home as possible, but when it’s just an hour or two drive away, it’s an advantage that schools like Michigan State and Kansas shouldn’t have over opponents that must travel clear across the country.
TALK ABOUT BRACKETS: Finally how’s your bracket doing? Sorry I asked.
As much fun as March Madness is, don’t you ever get tired of people talking about “my bracket.’’ At this time of year, everyone has a bracket and they love to talk about it, whether it’s the fact that they got 14 out of 16 in the first round, or how their bracket it totally messed up because of all the upsets. Hey, everyone’s bracket is all messed up because of all the upsets
It’s fun to make predictions and see how smart you are, but more often than not your Aunt Gertrude wins the family pool because she doesn’t realize Florida Gulf Coast and LaSalle aren’t supposed to win one, let alone two games in the tournament.
Maybe the only thing worse than hearing someone go on about their bracket is someone giving a hole-by-hole recounting of their latest golf round.