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TOURNAMENT TIME: UTAH'S COLLEGES LOOKING TO ADVANCE

As the state's college basketball teams head into this week's conference tournaments, only one - BYU - seems assured of an NCAA tournament berth. By the time the week is over, four teams could be heading to the NCAAs.

The state's fifth major-college team, Southern Utah, can only wait and see if it receives a bid to the NIT, because the school's chances for an NCAA berth, despite a 20-win season, appear extremely unlikely.In the WAC men's tournament, which begins Thursday in Fort Collins, BYU and Utah are on a collision course again, which could result in their third straight WAC tourney matchup. Two years ago the two rivals met in the first round and last year they played in the finals.

The Cougars and Utes play in prime time with BYU meeting Air Force at 6:30 p.m. and Utah taking on Hawaii at 9 p.m. In the other two games, New Mexico plays Wyoming at noon and UTEP must face the host team, Colorado State, at 2:30 p.m.

Utah State begins play Thursday in the most wide-open Big West tournament in years, thanks to the exclusion of perennial winner UNLV. The Aggies take on Pacific, which won a coin flip with Cal-Fullerton for the No. 5 spot, at 2 p.m.

The Aggies need to get over their habit of losing in the first round, which they've done six of the last seven years. The one year the Ags got past the opening round, 1988, they won the whole thing.

A win would likely pit the Aggies against Cal-Santa Barbara, a team it beat handily in Logan a couple of weeks ago. Jerry Pimm's Gauchos open against No. 8 UC-Irvine. Fullerton meets No. 3 Long Beach State and No. 2 New Mexico State plays Fresno State in the other two games.

With its highest seeding in years, Weber State has high hopes heading into the Big Sky tournament in Missoula, Montana. The Wildcats play Idaho State at 6:30 p.m. and if they win, will meet No. 2 seed Nevada Friday.

In the other first-round Big Sky game, Boise State meets Idaho at 9 p.m. No. 1-seeded Montana gets a bye and plays the highest-seeded survivor of the first round.

The only college action in town this week will be at the Huntsman Center where the WAC women's tournament will be played. Once again, Utah and BYU could meet in the semifinals if they win first-round games.

No. 2-seeded BYU plays Colorado State at 6 p.m. Thursday, while host Utah, seeded No. 3, plays UTEP at 8 p.m.

Other games include No. 4 San Diego State vs. Wyoming (1 p.m.) and No. 1 Creighton vs. No. 8 New Mexico (3 p.m.).