I am a Utah Valley alum and I bleed green. Most people that follow WAC Hoops Digest already know this. Sometimes it doesn’t come off as much considering I try to be as unbiased as I can in covering the Western Athletic Conference.
But, it is challenging to say the least. However, when the Wolverines aren’t playing another WAC team, I can show a little more fandom. I do this for every WAC team when they are playing non-conference games.
On Wednesday night, in Orem, for the first time in program history, the Wolverines hosted a game that was broadcast on national television. A trip to the NIT semifinals in Las Vegas was on the line.
It was an opportunity to spotlight a Utah Valley program that has back-to-back 20-win seasons. The Wolverines have also won two of the last three WAC regular season titles. Add in wins over BYU, Oregon, New Mexico and Colorado. 27 wins. Most in program history. Have a former Los Angeles Laker and Stanford All-American as a head coach.
These are just a few factors that have media coverage written all over them.
Wolverine Wednesday at the UCCU Center was the perfect opportunity to put Utah Valley on the map. There was no competition with other college basketball games. BYU wasn’t playing. Utah wasn’t playing. The NCAA Tournament had the night off.
Given all these circumstances, Utah Valley got the media attention it deserved on Wednesday night.
Before I get into my little Ted Talk, I will give some credit where it is due. KSL.com writer Sean Walker and Daily Herald writer Jared Lloyd have been covering Utah Valley all season. They didn’t just show up when Utah Valley was making headlines in the NIT. The three of us have been along for the ride all season.
Now, to my Ted Talk, or rant as some may view it.
I’ve been covering Utah Valley basketball since the 2014-15 season when Mark Pope took over. First, it was for the UVU Review. Then, it was for a UVU fan website I ran for a few years. There was also some coverage for KSL.com. Now, over the past three years, it has been on this platform. Trips to Duke, Kentucky, Wake Forest, Utah State, Seattle, Cedar City, California and so forth. You all know because I get tweet responses calling me a homer.
So, you have to forgive me when I state how frustrating it is, now that Utah Valley is in the national spotlight, that local media is finally jumping on the bandwagon.
Frustrating in that it shouldn’t take a successful run in a national tournament to see how good Utah Valley has been ALL season.
The Wolverines went 9-4 in non-conference play. This included the wins at BYU and at Oregon. The Wolverines whooped the Cougars in the Marriott Center. That alone should have created a ton of buzz considering how local media tends to drool all over the Cougars. Two weeks later, Utah Valley led nearly start to finish in a win at Oregon. Those two wins were part of an 11-game win streak, one of the highest in the nation at the time.
When Utah Valley beat Sam Houston to open WAC play on Dec. 29, Sean Walker, Jared Lloyd and myself were the only local media members in attendance. There were no video cameras of local television stations. It was a simple Three Man Weave covering a big-time, conference-opening ball game.
Maybe that is a Utah Valley issue. Perhaps it is being buried between BYU and Utah and Utah State.
Maybe it is the product of being in a mid-major conference. Or not drawing 8,000 to 10,000 people per night to your gym.
Fortunately, after suffering a heartbreaking loss in the WAC semifinals, Utah Valley got to keep playing basketball.
The Wolverines were the automatic qualifier to the NIT with the regular season title.
There was no drop off. Double digit wins at New Mexico and at Colorado got the country and local media talking even more.
Radio stations, sports anchors, and more are seeing what you, as fans, and I have been seeing all season. This is a very good Utah Valley squad. They haven’t won a program-best 28 games for no reason.
Playing on Wolverine Wednesday on ESPN 2, the local media came out in force. There were no empty spots along press row. Ken Pomeroy was sitting right behind the Utah Valley bench. KUTV sports anchor Adam Mikulich was in attendance. I should note he was also in Las Vegas at the WAC Tournament. There were others who I was not familiar with. Morgan Vance of Fox 13 was in attendance on Wednesday night.
It was well-deserving for the lone team in the Beehive State still playing in 2022-23. Even more so for a team that has the most wins of any team in the Beehive State.
Cincinnati head coach Wes Miller had something to say about the atmosphere on Wednesday night.
“This was special tonight. It was loud. It should be like that every night with the job that Mark (Madsen) has done.”
He’s right. The Utah Valley men’s basketball team deserves the attention from fans, supporters, college basketball junkies, and media outlets alike. Over 5,000 fans packed the UCCU Center to watch the Wolverines knock off Cincinnati. In fact, it was the most attended home game in 2022-23. Over the past decade, it was the third-most attended home game at the UCCU Center. The two ahead of it, for obvious reasons, are games against BYU.
Wednesday night, the Wolverines earned that deserved attention even more so with another win against a future Big 12 opponent.
Mark Madsen has had something brewing in Orem the past two seasons. That brewing deserves the same media attention consistently that it got on Wednesday night in an NIT quarterfinal win.
“I would tell all these people to appreciate what you have, and make the environment like that every night.”
The opposing coach knows what is brewing.
After Wednesday night, everyone else in the country does as well.