Will any Utah schools make the men’s NCAA Tournament this year?
Only one Utah school, Utah State, has made multiple NCAA Tournament appearances in the past 6 years, and the Aggies are the state’s best hope again this season
More often than not in recent years, the state of Utah has failed to be represented in the men’s basketball NCAA Tournament.
Over the past six years, only twice has a team from the state played in the NCAAs, though in 2020, both BYU and Utah State (having won an automatic bid) were locks to play in the tournament before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heading into the meat of conference championship week, there are no guarantees that a Utah program will play in this year’s NCAA Tournament, either, though there are a compelling group of teams that could earn an appearance.
Here’s a look at the NCAA prospects for each Utah Division I men’s basketball program, with Selection Sunday quickly approaching:
Utah State (24-7)
MWC tournament seed: No. 3.
Next game: Thursday vs. winner of No. 6 New Mexico and No. 11 Wyoming in MWC tournament quarterfinals (9:30 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network).
NET ranking (heading into Wednesday): No. 21.
Current outlook: The Aggies are squarely on the NCAA bubble, though many bracketologists have Utah State making this year’s field, even as an at-large.
One day before they play their first conference tournament game, the Aggies appear in three-fourths of the major bracketology predictions that Bracket Matrix tracks.
That includes being projected as a No. 11 seed by publications like ESPN and CBS Sports, though others like USA Today still have Utah State on the outside looking in.
What Utah State needs to do: Utah State would do well to make a deep run in the MWC tournament — the Aggies are listed among the last four in on several bracketology predictions.
Fortunately for the Aggies, though, they enter the conference tournament on a five-game win streak and have made deep runs at the MWC tournament in recent years.
Two factors weigh negatively on Utah State’s at-large resume for the NCAAs: their current 1-4 record against Quad 1 opponents, and two Quad 4 losses back in December.
Also consider that other MWC at-large hopefuls Boise State and Nevada have three and four Quad 1 wins, respectively, and no Quad 4 losses.
The Aggies, though, beat both the Broncos and Wolf Pack by double digits in their current five-game win streak and could potentially add another Quad 1 win or two in the MWC tournament (though two Quad 1 wins mean Utah State won the conference tournament and earned the automatic bid).
Pac-12 tournament seed: No. 7.
Next game: Wednesday vs. No. 10 Stanford in Pac-12 tournament first round (7 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Networks).
NET ranking: No. 76.
Current outlook: At one point during the season, the Utes were seen as a strong NCAA bubble team, a sentiment bolstered by Utah’s convincing early season win over Arizona.
Utah has fallen off the bubble, though, as it dropped from near the top of the Pac-12 standings into the bottom half of the league — the banged-up Utes head into the conference tournament on a five-game losing streak.
What Utah needs to do: Utah’s only hope to make the NCAA Tournament lies with earning the Pac-12’s automatic bid by winning the conference tournament.
That’s a tough ask, though, considering the Utes have never won the league tournament and have programs like Arizona and USC on their half of the bracket, just to get to the championship.
Utah Valley (24-7)
WAC tournament seed: No. 2.
Next game: Thursday vs. No. 7 Tarleton in WAC tournament quarterfinals (7 p.m. MST, ESPN+).
NET ranking: No. 73.
Current outlook: Despite winning the WAC regular-season title, the Wolverines enter the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed, thanks to the league’s resume seeding formula. The No. 1 seed, instead, went to Sam Houston.
The Wolverines, who’ve never made an NCAA Tournament appearance, enter the conference tournament having won eight of their last nine games.
What UVU needs to do: The Wolverines’ only path to the NCAAs is through winning the WAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
UVU has never reached the WAC tournament final — five times it has lost in the semifinals.
The Wolverines’ last loss also came against Tarleton, a 77-58 setback in the two teams’ lone meeting this year.
UVU, though, has built its strongest team under head coach Mark Madsen and is predicted by more than two-thirds of the latest bracketology projections on Bracket Matrix to make its NCAA Tournament debut this season.
Southern Utah (20-11)
WAC tournament seed: No. 3.
Next game: Thursday vs. No. 11 Utah Tech in WAC tournament quarterfinals (9 p.m. MST, ESPN+).
NET ranking: No. 104.
Current outlook: The T’Birds finished third in the league standings in their first season in the WAC and head into the tournament having won three of their past five games.
Their two most recent losses came by a combined 12 points against two of the other top teams in the league, Sam Houston and Grand Canyon.
What Southern Utah needs to do: Like UVU, Southern Utah’s path to the NCAAs goes squarely through winning the WAC tournament championship.
The T’Birds have made an NCAA Tournament appearance just once, back in 2001, but have shown this season they are capable of competing with the top teams in the WAC.
A win Thursday could set up an intriguing matchup with UVU for the right to play in the WAC championship — SUU and UVU split their season matchups, with each team winning at home.
Utah teams out of NCAA Tournament consideration
- BYU (19-15) — The Cougars lost to Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference tournament semifinals on Monday, and are on the fringe of NIT possibility with a NET ranking of 84.
- Weber State (18-15) — The Wildcats lost to Montana State in the Big Sky tournament semifinals on Tuesday, the second straight year Weber State lost to Montana State in the Big Sky semifinals.
- Utah Tech (14-18) — While the Trailblazers won their WAC tournament first-round matchup against Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday, they are ineligible for the NCAA Tournament as part of their four-year transitional period to the Division I level.