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Kragthorpe: BYU, Utah have to live with disappointing finishes

Published March 16, 2017 10:15 am
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The beauty of the NIT is the winners can feel good about themselves and the losers can rationalize that the tournament doesn't really matter.

Even so, Utah and BYU will have to live with their season-ending performances for a while before dismissing them.

The rivals were bracketed for a meeting in the championship game in New York — and that seemed possible, didn't it? Both No. 3-seeded teams instead were knocked out by No. 6 seeds on their home courts in the first round. The basketball gods must have determined they didn't want either fan base to be happier than the other going into the offseason.

The way each roster was structured in 2016-17 with so many players scheduled to return, it would have helped either program to advance in the NIT. It didn't happen in a tournament filled with upsets. By the time BYU tipped off vs. UT Arlington on Wednesday night, the Cougars knew they needed only to win three home games to make another trip to Madison Square Garden.

But the Mavericks rolled to a 105-89 victory at the Marriott Center, scoring 62 points in the first half. Amid the explanations of injuries and illness, the Cougars have to be accountable for those numbers.

Lack of motivation can't be the reason Utah lost to Boise State. The Utes competed sufficiently to hold an 11-point lead in the second half, only to have the Broncos overtake them, winning 73-68 at the Huntsman Center.

The total attendance in Provo and Salt Lake City, with students and patrons having to buy single-game tickets, was about 11,500. So it is evident that not a lot of money or emotion was invested in the NIT around here. History shows the interest level would have increased as the tournament went along.

But the Utes and Cougars are done. I've applauded the NCAA for operating the NIT as a genuine tournament, with seeding and assignments not based on geography. In the old days, the NIT almost certainly would have matched BYU and Utah in the first round for money's sake. My preference was for the teams to earn that meeting, whenever it may have occurred, with more at stake.

We'll never know what would have happened. With the season over, let's just say it is difficult to make a convincing case for either team advancing from that pairing.


Twitter: @tribkurt






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