Welcome to the inaugural Small Conference Game of the Day for the 2013-14 college basketball season. This is where we highlight teams from conferences outside of the majors, and very often outside even the top mid-majors. These teams are often unlikely to be playing in the NCAA tournament, but we use this space to highlight their games and discuss them more in depth.
Tonight’s game is a throwback to one of the SCGOD’s favorite conferences, the now defunct Great West. The GWC played four full seasons as a Division I conference, sending their tournament champion each year to the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT). Utah Valley University hosted the Great West tournament in Orem, Utah during its first two seasons, with Chicago State hosting the final two. While Utah Valley twice won the regular season championship, they failed to win the conference tournament on any of their four tries. However, in perhaps the highlight moment for the Great West, UVU earned an at-large bid into the CIT after the 2011-12 season, their lone postseason bid since becoming a member of Division I.
At 9:00PM Eastern tonight, Utah Valley hosts North Carolina A&T out of the MEAC (UVU-TV, free streaming at http://www.uvu.edu/uvutv). This is UVU’s second game of the season, having beaten IUPUI 74-66 on Friday night, and coming just one day before a trip to Stillwater to take on Oklahoma State. UVU was led in their first game by Holton Hunsaker, who scored 18 points, and redshirt freshman Zach Nelson, who scored a double-double in his first career game. North Carolina A&T also won its first game of the season, defeating non-D1 Greensboro College. Their star player in that game was Richaud Pack, a freshman who dropped 30 points.
While the Great West no longer exists, and the court in Orem, Utah will be proclaiming how UVU is now a member of the WAC, the SCGOD still fondly recalls the four years of its existence. But, as with all things, time has brought change. And for the Wolverines of Utah Valley University, they will for the first time ever this season be competing for an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament — and a chance to cut down the nets in the WAC finals this year will be well worth not having done so during their four journeys through the Great West.