College hoops has arrived and the madness doesn’t just happen in March. The season is still young but it’s never too early to gauge the future success of the top programs in the state.
So, I ask: Who is the best college team in Utah this year?
For a long time, the University of Utah dominated the hardwood, led by Rick Majerus and his sweater.
Then, BYU enjoyed plenty of success with several trips to the NCAA tournament.
Quietly and often overlooked, the Aggies up north have consistently put together solid 20-plus win seasons.
This year, however, the best team resides in Ogden. Weber State is, and will prove to be, the best college basketball team in the state of Utah.
The following slides explain my reasoning.
The Utes were annual March Madness participants, even reaching the championship game in '98. They constantly recruited top talent that eventually landed on NBA rosters.
I speak in past tense as the current team is a mess, to put it nicely. Their latest coach was fired in the offseason which resulted in a remarkable amount of transfers.
This year, with Coach Krystkowiak at the helm, the squad features a roster seemingly assembled via Craigslist ads and eHarmony.
They are in a rebuilding mode. If Extreme Makeover did a college basketball edition, the University of Utah would surely be first in line.
Only a few weeks into the season, it may be too premature to diagnose this team, but, the current symptoms don’t look too promising.
They beat a Jimmer-less BYU team, then were hammered at the hands of Weber St. To top it off, their 33-game home winning streak was snapped by Denver. No, not the Nuggets. The University of Denver stepped into Wild Bill’s stadium and delivered an astonishing 13-point defeat.
It doesn’t look like a typical Stew Morrill squad. They have an uncharacteristically high amount of turnovers, lack consistent outside shooters, and there is little inside presence.
Are there anymore Wesley brothers out there? If so, the Aggies have a scholarship waiting.
The team still features the preseason WAC player of the year in Brockeith Pane and with Wild Bill in the crowd anything can happen.
And, the best news of all, Utah State plays in the lowly WAC and will easily contend for a spot in the tournament.
BYU, owned by the LDS church, is known to have a strict honor code that the students and athletes must abide by. Alcohol consumption, for example, is prohibited. Still, students find a way to gain that freshman fifteen that is so prevalent in college campuses nationwide. The difference is that ice cream is usually why it happens in Provo—if you’ve been to the creamery then you’d understand. They also find a way to experience hangovers and the BYU basketball program is having one this season. A Jimmer hangover.
Too much Jimmer last year and not enough water. They appear groggy and have a headache trying to find a replacement for Team Jimmer—and you thought Team Edward had a lot of fans.
Their best bet is to just accept he’s gone and move on.
They lost their game to the Aggies, were beaten badly by Wisconsin, but still remain a talented bunch. They should be competitive in their new conference, the WCC.
BYU, though, is not the best team in Utah. That honor goes to, you guessed it, Weber St.
There’s a new sheriff in town.
Translation: This year, Weber State boasts the best college hoops team in the state of Utah.
Why? Two words: Damian Lillard.
He’s this year’s Jimmer, and maybe the better all-around player of the two.
He’s Harold Arceneaux, 2.0.
He’s the best player in the state, hands down.
The Wildcats haven’t had a scorer like this since the previously mentioned Arceneaux. The year was 1999 and we all remember what happened. If you don’t, just ask a North Carolina fan. Behind 36 points from Arceneaux, the 14th-seed Wildcats upset the No. 3 seed Tar Heels in the first round of that year's tournament. Madness, indeed.
With a quality supporting cast around Lillard, the Wildcats are aiming to not only qualify for the NCAA tournament but also make some noise once they do. Don’t be surprised if that’s what actually happens.