Here’s the postseason outlook for Utah college basketball teams as the regular season wraps up
Will a Utah men’s college basketball team make the NCAA Tournament this year?
The men’s college basketball regular season will wrap up in the next two weeks, giving way to conference tournaments before the much-anticipated NCAA Tournament, which tips off in mid-March.
For the seven Utah schools playing at the Division I level, there are a variety of expectations and hopes for what the postseason might bring.
After no Utah teams made the NCAA Tournament last year, there are at least a few who are clinging to March Madness aspirations right now — while other schools are likely headed for an early end of the season.
Here is the outlook for each Utah team with postseason play on the horizon:
Utah State Aggies (22-7, 11-5 Mountain West)
- Regular-season games remaining: at UNLV, March 1; vs. Boise State, March 4.
- NET ranking: No. 31.
- KenPom ranking: No. 35.
Conference tournament seeding outlook: The Aggies, who are currently fourth in the MWC standings, are guaranteed no worse than the No. 4 seed in the MWC Tournament, ensuring them a first-round bye in the tournament which runs March 8-11.
Utah State is actually within a game and a half of the two teams — Boise State and Nevada — directly in front of it. The game against the Broncos, in Logan to end the regular season, could be a Quad 1 win opportunity for the Aggies — Boise State is currently No. 23 in the NET rankings.
Postseason outlook: NCAA Tournament at-large bid hopes still alive.
Utah State is squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble, but the Aggies have a recent history of strong finishes — particularly in the MWC Tournament — that should bolster USU fans’ hopes as they prepare for Selection Sunday.
The MWC is seen as a strong contender to get 3-4 teams in the NCAA Tournament field: ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and USA Today currently have three MWC teams making the NCAA Tournament in their latest bracketology, while CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has four, though right now Utah State is on the outside looking in.
Lunardi and USA Today both have the Aggies among the “last four out” category heading into the final two weekends of the regular season.
Utah State last played in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, losing to Texas Tech. It played in the NIT last year.
Utah Utes (17-11, 10-7 Pac-12)
- Regular-season games remaining: vs. UCLA, Thursday; vs. USC, Saturday; at Colorado, March 4.
- NET ranking: No. 56.
- KenPom ranking: No. 54.
Conference tournament seeding outlook: The Utes currently are tied with Arizona State for fourth in the Pac-12 standings, though the Sun Devils hold the tiebreaker after beating Utah last week in their only regular-season matchup. Oregon, which is one game back in the Pac-12 standings, also swept the Utes.
Because of injuries, Utah is expected to be without its starting backcourt of Gabe Madsen and Rollie Worster this weekend against the league’s No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the standings in the Bruins and Trojans, complicating matters.
That all might make it seem like it will be difficult for Utah to earn a top 4 seed and a first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament (which runs March 8-11). There’s hope, though, because Arizona State plays the conference’s top three teams to end the regular season (all on the road), and Oregon is on a three-game losing streak.
Considering who other Pac-12 teams face to end the regular season, Utah is likely a top-4 seed if it can secure even just one win in its final three games.
Postseason outlook: Clinging on to slim NCAA Tournament at-large hopes.
Utah is not currently mentioned on major national bracketology projections, but the opportunities are there for wins to vastly improve their NCAA Tournament resume: UCLA (No. 4 in the NET rankings) is a Quad 1 opponent, and Colorado (No. 61) would also be another Quad 1 opportunity.
Bracketologists are currently predicting just three Pac-12 teams for the NCAA Tournament this year, and with UCLA and Arizona seen as locks, that leaves little wiggle room for the Utes to get in, barring earning the automatic bid by winning the Pac-12 Tournament championship. Utah has never won the Pac-12 Tournament.
The last time the Utes played beyond the Pac-12 Tournament was in the 2017-18 season, when Utah advanced to the NIT final (where it lost to Penn State).
The Utes’ last NCAA Tournament appearance came seven seasons ago, when Utah advanced to the second round in the 2015-16 season.
Utah Valley Wolverines (21-6, 12-2 WAC)
- Regular-season games remaining: at Tarleton, Thursday; at Abilene Christian, Saturday; vs. UT Arlington, March 1; vs. Stephen F. Austin, March 3.
- NET ranking: No. 78.
- KenPom ranking: No. 81.
Conference tournament seeding outlook: The Wolverines have a two-game lead in the Western Athletic Conference standings and are currently the No. 1 overall team in the WAC’s resume seeding system, which determines the seeding for the conference tournament (which runs March 7-11).
UVU and Sam Houston have a sizable lead on the rest of the league in the WAC resume seeding system.
The Wolverines last earned the No. 1 seed in the WAC Tournament during their first year in the league, back in 2014.
Of UVU’s final four regular-season opponents, only one — Stephen F. Austin — currently has a winning conference record. Barring a collapse, the Wolverines are pacing for their first WAC regular-season championship since the 2013-14 season.
Postseason outlook: NCAA auto bid or bust.
The Wolverines’ hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history lie with winning the WAC’s automatic bid in the conference tournament.
UVU has never played in the WAC Tournament championship. They lost in the semifinals three straight years under previous head coach Mark Pope, who’s now at BYU.
Two years ago, they fell to New Mexico State in the WAC Tournament semifinals under current head coach Mark Madsen, who has a 1-2 record in WAC Tournament play (the 2020 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
The Wolverines, though, are one of the hottest teams in college basketball right now, having won 18 of their past 20 games.
That’s helped elevate them a bit in bracketologists’ eyes — Lunardi and USA Today have UVU as a No. 13 seed, and Palm has them as a No. 12 seed.
Southern Utah Thunderbirds (18-9, 10-4 WAC)
- Regular-season games remaining: at UT Arlington, Thursday; at Sam Houston, Saturday; vs. Grand Canyon, March 1; vs. Cal Baptist, March 3.
- NET ranking: No. 105.
- KenPom ranking: No. 108.
Conference tournament seeding outlook: The T’Birds are currently the No. 3 team in the WAC’s resume seeding system, which determines the seeding for the conference tournament (which runs March 7-11).
SUU is just ahead of Sam Houston, adding importance for their matchup in Texas on Saturday.
Southern Utah, which is in its first season in the WAC after moving over from the Big Sky Conference, would avoid facing likely No. 1 seed UVU until the WAC Tournament championship if the T’Birds can maintain that No. 3 seed.
Postseason outlook: NCAA auto bid or bust.
Southern Utah is guaranteed its fourth straight winning season under head coach Todd Simon, though the T’Birds have yet to make the NCAA Tournament during his tenure.
SUU has just once NCAA Tournament appearance, making the Big Dance during the 2000-01 season when the T’Birds won the Mid-Continent Conference.
There’s optimism Southern Utah could be a contender in this year’s WAC Tournament — the T’Birds have hung with the other top teams in the league this year and beat both UVU and Sam Houston in Cedar City earlier this season.
Weber State Wildcats (15-13, 10-5 Big Sky)
- Regular-season games remaining: vs. Eastern Washington, Thursday; vs. Idaho, Saturday; at Northern Arizona, Monday.
- NET ranking: No. 203.
- KenPom ranking: No. 208.
Conference tournament seeding outlook: The Wildcats are currently third in the Big Sky Conference standings with a two-game lead over Montana and can finish anywhere from second to fourth in the conference standings.
The key for Weber State is to get on the opposite side — into either the No. 2 or No. 3 seed — of the Big Sky Tournament bracket from league-leading Eastern Washington, which is unbeaten in conference play.
The Wildcats gave the Eagles one of their closest games so far in Big Sky play — losing to them by four in Washington last month — and host the league leader Thursday.
Weber State also finishes the regular season against the bottom two teams in the league standings.
Postseason outlook: NCAA auto bid or bust.
The Wildcats got out to a rough start to the season and, while they have been better in conference play and beat Utah State late in nonconference action, they have struggled to win consistently through much of the year.
Weber State has won seven of its past 10 games, though, and with a good showing at the end of the regular season, it could set itself up for a potential run in the Big Sky Tournament (which runs March 4-8), the only realistic way for the Wildcats to find themselves playing beyond the conference tournament.
Weber State last played in the NCAA Tournament in 2016, its second appearance during a three-year span under then-coach Randy Rahe.
BYU Cougars (16-14, 6-9 WCC)
- Regular-season games remaining: vs. San Francisco, Saturday.
- NET ranking: No. 94.
- KenPom ranking: No. 83.
Conference tournament seeding outlook: The Cougars are sitting in seventh place in the West Coast Conference standings going into the final weekend of the regular season for the league, which will hold its conference tournament March 2-7.
They are a half-game behind fifth place San Francisco and Pacific — those teams both play Thursday — and a half-game in front of Portland.
BYU would hold the tiebreaker edge over either Pacific or Portland in a two-team tie due to head-to-head matchups but the Cougars lost to San Francisco earlier this year, making their game this Saturday a critical one for their WCC Tournament seeding.
If the Cougars manage to land either the No. 5 or No. 6 seed for the WCC Tournament, they would avoid having to play in the tournament’s first round by earning a bye to the second round.
No matter what, though, this will be the second straight year BYU is a No. 5 seed or worse in the WCC Tournament. Prior to that, the Cougars had never been anything lower than the No. 3 seed.
Postseason outlook: An unlikely conference tournament run or bust.
Barring an unexpected run in Las Vegas, BYU is likely to end its final season as a member of the WCC before moving to the Big 12 with an early exit in the WCC Tournament.
BYU has never won the WCC Tournament, and that’s the only scenario that is expected to extend their season — two years after the Cougars last advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
NIT bracketologists do not have the Cougars, who have lost four straight games, listed as a NIT possibility, either.
Utah Tech Trailblazers (11-16, 3-11 WAC)
- Regular-season games remaining: at UT Rio Grande Valley, Thursday; at UT Arlington, Saturday; vs. Seattle, March 1; vs. Grand Canyon, March 3.
- NET ranking: No. 183.
- KenPom ranking: No. 185.
Conference tournament seeding outlook: Utah Tech is currently 12th in the WAC standings but is No. 11 in the WAC’s resume seeding system, which determines the seeding for the conference tournament (which runs March 7-11).
The Trailblazers hit the road this week to face a pair of other teams also in the bottom half of the standings, then finish the year with home games against two of the WAC’s top teams.
No matter what, though, Utah Tech will be playing in the WAC Tournament for the first time since jumping to the Division I level three seasons ago with the expansion of the tournament to include 12 teams.
Postseason outlook: Getting the experience of postseason play.
Utah Tech is guaranteed to be playing during the first round of the WAC Tournament. The team would play No. 6 seed Stephen F. Austin in its opener if the season ended today.
Expecting the Trailblazers to make a run in Las Vegas is a tall task. Utah Tech has lost 11 of its last 13 games, and its six-game win streak in mid-to-late December was a long time ago.
For now, the biggest takeaway will be seeing how Utah Tech performs in its first taste of playing in the WAC Tournament.