The grandest stage in sports, the event that turns stars into heroes and heroes into legends is the NCAA Basketball Tournament — simply known to basketball fans around the country as March Madness. Since Bird and Magic faced off in the 1979 tournament final, March Madness has become a stepping-stone for college basketball stars entering into the NBA, and Utah Valley University, as of next season, will technically be eligible to be invited to the big dance.
In recent history, teams from nearly unknown universities have plunged deep into the tournament, frustrating top seeds by sending them packing early on. George Mason had its Cinderella run to the final four in 2006, and sharpshooter Stephon Curry led Davidson’s elite in an eight charge last season.
While it’s quite a stretch to imagine that UVU would garner an invite in the coming seasons, it’s not entirely impossible. Just ask North Dakota State, who has only been playing Division I basketball since the 2005-06 season. The Bisons received the coveted invite thanks to its Summit League Tournament Championship. However, as long as the Wolverines are competing in the newly created Great West Conference, an automatic bid remains years away.
Because of the upsets of many heavily-favored teams in last week’s conference tournaments, a tournament low of four at-large bids were handed out to non-BCS conference teams. This also bodes poorly for the Wolverines, in that the power conferences are dominating the spotlight, and the BCS monopoly appears to be seeping from college football into basketball as well. The best bet for Utah Valley to be on the big stage appears to be the automatic bid from winning its conference tournament.
Hopefully for UVU fans, in the coming years the Great West Conference will meet the requirements and get enough respect to send its champion to March Madness.