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Utah’s schools fight to stay in conference races
Jan 28, 2013 | 669 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Heading into last week’s slate of games, Utah State, BYU and Weber State all sat at the top of their respective conferences while Utah was left looking up at the rest of its.

One week later, only Weber State remains at the top of its conference. BYU and Utah State put themselves in holes that will be difficult to dig out of, and Utah recorded its first road upset against one of the top teams in the PAC-12.

It was certainly a wacky week, but it did set up one of the most important weeks for the schools in their conference races.

BYU (15-5, 5-1)was hurt the most last week after allowing a Matthew Dellavedova half court shot at the buzzer and falling to conference rival Saint Mary’s 70-69. Even though the Cougars rebounded Saturday night against San Diego, the Saint Mary’s loss dropped the Cougars from first place. Even though BYU technically is second in the league, Saint Mary’s now holds the tiebreaker.

What hurts more is that the Cougars needed the win to boost their NCAA Tournament resume. With the loss, the Cougars are severely lacking the quality wins necessary for an at-large bid. They will have their shot to remedy that tonight as they travel to Spokane, Wash. to face Gonzaga.

The 10th ranked Bulldogs (17-2, 4-0) are coming off their own last-second madness, having fallen to Butler by one after a turnover on an inbound pass. They will be looking to get the sour taste of that loss out of their mouths and put the Cougars further back in the West Coast Conference race. The nationally televised game will tip off at 9 p.m. on ESPN2.

Utah State (14-3, 5-2) did not succumb to any buzzer beaters, but could not have returned from their two-game road trip more disappointed. A pair of losses to conference nemeses New Mexico State and Denver vaulted the two teams ahead of the Aggies, dropping Utah State from first to fourth in the WAC.

The Aggies will look to rebound this week with a pair of home games. Thursday the Aggies will host UT-Arlington (8-8, 3-4) before trying to climb back into championship contention Saturday when they host conference leader Louisiana Tech (16-3, 7-0). Both games will tip off at 7 p.m. and can be seen on KMYU channel 12.

Weber State (13-3, 8-0) fared much better than their other schools, despite getting a scare from upset-minded Sacramento State last Saturday. This week, the Wildcats will hit the road for a pair of games that could decide the regular season champion favorite in the Big Sky.

While Thursday’s match-up against third-place Montana State (7-9, 4-4) is next, it is tempting to look past the Bobcats to Saturday’s tilt against the Montana Grizzlies (12-4, 8-0). Montana and Weber State have dominated the Big Sky in recent seasons, with one or the other a factor determining the conference champ five of the last six seasons. Montana played in the last three conference championship games, winning both of their matchups against Weber State.

The game will tip off at 7 p.m. and will be streamed online. The link will be available through the Weber State athletic website.

The University of Utah (9-9, 1-5) could easily get lost in the shuffle as it continues its rebuilding process. However, a key step was taken as the Utes upset Washington in Seattle Saturday, recording their first road conference win since joining the PAC-12. The victory pulled the Utes out of last place in the conference and evened out their record after they fell below .500 for the first time this season.

They will try and build on the impressive win this week with a pair of home games against traditional PAC-12 powers California (10-7, 2-3) tonight and Stanford (11-7, 2-3) on Sunday. Both games will be nationally televised on the PAC-12 Network.

kchapman@davisclipper.com

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