What Will It Take For A Utah Team To Reach The Final Four?
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It has been 21 years since a local Utah college has reached the Final Four. The last team to do so was the University of Utah which was led by Hall of Fame head coach Rick Majerus, the Utes lost to Kentucky in the national title game.
The closest a local team has come to making the Final Four was the 2015 Utah team and the 2011 BYU team, both made it to the Sweet 16.
The good news is that looking at the Final Four field this year, it features three non-traditional basketball powers. Texas Tech and Auburn are appearing in the Final Four for the first time and Virginia is back for the first time in 35 years. The lone blue-blood is Michigan State which is back in the Final Four since its 2015 appearance.
What Will It Take For A Local Team To Reach The Final Four?
The current crop of Final Four teams are not the typical teams that make deep tournament runs and that should give the likes of Utah, Utah State, BYU, and others from Utah a shot to make it to the Final Four.
The Utes have the best path at a high seed if they have a good season in the Pac-12 by virtue of being in a power conference. Whereas the others in the state would have to make a Cinderella-style run to make the Final Four with a couple of upsets along the way.
KSL Sports Alex Kirry is not too confident a Final Four appearance will ever happen again for a local team.
“It is such an accomplishment, and I wonder, will there ever be a team that makes it the Final Four ever again from the state of Utah and I don’t think it is going happen,” Kirry said on KSL’s Unrivaled. It is tough to look that far ahead in the future but it has become such a big program thing ever.”
Forever is a long time but it will take a special season for the Utes, Aggies, Cougars, or any other local team but it happened a few times before so it could happen again with the right scenario.
KSL Sports Scott Mitchell adds to the conversation by pointing out what to look for in a team if they are to advance far in the NCAA Tournament, and it comes down to how good backcourt play.
“Every year the teams that do well, typically, have a great guard. When you talk about teams in Utah that made it, Andre Miller was great playing guard for Utah when they went to the finals,” Mitchell said. “Of course, there was Danny Ainge, who made this miraculous coast-to-coast shot against Notre Dame to put BYU in the Elite Eight, and then you have Jimmer [Fredette] is the last time BYU went to the Sweet 16.”
It is not just guard play that teams need to advance, but high-quality ones that can lead a team during the stress of a single-elimination tournament.
“When you get this really good guard play… you need someone who can control the tempo and pace and make plays happen from the guard position and that is when you really have something,” Mitchell added. “I think teams from Utah can definitely get back there.”