Proposing a Utah NCAAB tournament

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DSC_0019-2Every year the three dominant football teams in the state go head-to-head, enabling an easy response when determining the premier team in Utah.

Deciding which Beehive State school owns the best college basketball team is much more complex, since only two or three of the teams are, essentially, open to scheduling meetings with one another every year.

There is lot that goes into putting together a 28-30 game schedule but with only one professional basketball team to attract the attention of the hardwood aficionados after the football season ends, an early-season tournament between the six DI basketball programs in Utah could be beneficial and profitable for everyone involved.

Rivalries run deep here. Incessant trash-talking ensues before and after every “Holy War,” and with Utah State poised to continue its recent run at national relevancy on the gridiron, the Aggies have inserted themselves into the conversation.

So why aren’t schools lacking in the football department given the chance to claim the top spot for state bragging rights?

First off, whether this idea ever becomes a reality is up to BYU and Utah.

With the largest athletic budgets in the state, both schools can afford to be selective when choosing opponents that an NCAA selection committee would deem “lesser” than say a nationally-ranked Oregon team, which, by playing UVU, BYU and Utah this year, plays more Utah-based schools than any other in this state, save Weber State.

Utah athletic director Chris Hill has spoken openly about the challenges of working out future meetings with Utah State – and even struggled to ensure the round-ball game with BYU was a lock moving forward – so the possibility of a six-team tournament may just be a pipe dream, but you can bet Southern Utah, UVU and Weber State would be more than open to beginning the season against local programs whose level they aspire to reach.

Secondly, the revenue sharing is complicated.

The first question that would arise, if agreed upon, would be the venue. The obvious answer would be Energy Solutions Arena but then you bring another party into the already crowded discussion.

However, 2013 would have provided the perfect opportunity for the round robin. The Jazz were on a four-game road trip from Nov. 5-9 and didn’t play another home game until Nov. 11, leaving the 19,911 seat arena unoccupied during the first week of the college basketball season.

If a deal were brokered with Jazz owner Gary Miller, it would be similar to the one implemented by BYU and Utah state when they met at ESA Nov. 30. Basically, the universities would share the profits made, with a slight kickback to the accommodating Jazz.

Thirdly, a six-team format isn’t the easiest to manage.

To undoubtedly specify which team is the best, each would have to go head-to-head with the other participants. That means a total of at least five games for each school, which is likely too many if you factor in semifinal and championship/consolation games.

In order to combat the potential issue, a random seeding could be done by the use of chance, or it could even be set up based on the previous year’s results. The team with best RPI would be the one seed and so on.

Another possibility is to utilize the framework of the Maui Invitational – a preseason tournament between eight teams with a winner’s and loser’s bracket – with a few modifications to give teams that lose their first game a chance to still make it to the finals.

For example, if UVU and Utah squared off in the first round, even if the Wolverines lost they’d still have one more game to move into the winner’s bracket against another team that dropped its tourney opener.

The logistics can be confusing, but there could even be a system that relies on margin of victory to identify the brackets and which losers or winners played whom.

Endless possibilities exist to create a working structure, and even if the Jazz were unwilling to vacate the ESA premises for five to seven days, alternating between venues each year would do wonders for the smaller schools if given the chance to host.

UVU defeated Weber State at home and valiantly came back to lose by only 11 to Utah State in a game that the Wolverines trailed by 23 at halftime. While the first step toward achieving the status of NCAA tournament qualifier was joining the WAC, a guaranteed slate against local teams would certainly help UVU’s progression.

I’d be the first person to verify my seat to experience the action if it ever came to fruition, and I’m sure tens of thousands of passionate basketball fans around the state would not be far behind.