Utah should make a tradition of inviting in-state rivals to Thanksgiving tourney

Oh, Thanksgiving. It’s a time for family, food and, apparently, Utah feasting on far inferior opponents.

Since Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak arrived in Salt Lake, the Utes have hosted a Thanksgiving tournament at the Huntsman Center. Well, it’s not so much a tournament as it is a turkey shoot for Utah.

There is no Kentucky-like school coming, no Kansas-type program — hell, there isn’t even a Weber State-ish team. This thing is an absolute joke for fans, players and media alike. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. The Utes take their wins and kick out their guests without even offering them some pie.

Now, I don’t mind the occasional soft schedule game. It creates the opportunity for a small school to come and play a big-time program and compete on a large stage. But nothing good is accomplished by this annual bore-fest.

Teams travel hundreds of miles to Salt Lake to play in front of mostly-empty stands, in meaningless games, for what reason? So Utah can pad its win total and feel like it’s sitting at the head of the table?

I am not opposed to games over the holiday. Football on Thanksgiving is a fantastic tradition, but this does not come close.

It could, though.

It is time for the Utes to turn their weak tournament into something people will get excited about. It’s time for them to push for a first of its kind, in-state tournament.

There are six D-I basketball teams in Utah: BYU, Weber State, Utah State, Utah Valley, Southern Utah and, of course, the Utes.

Invite them to the Huntsman — or even the Energy Solutions Arena — and have a three-day fight for state supremacy.

It doesn’t matter how the tournament is set up — round robin, play-in games or whatnot — just play it, and people will come.

We are living in a new era where football ‘rivalry week’ is played against a team no one cares about. So basketball should take advantage by setting up the ultimate rivalry weekend. Utah vs. Utah State, Utah vs. BYU, Utah vs. Weber State and so on. It will be a festive battle of the brothers, just like every turkey bowl was intended to be.

Suddenly a half-empty arena would be filled to the brim. Fans would descend upon Salt Lake to see which is the best program. It also would renew games that have been forgotten.

Utah hasn’t played Weber State and Utah State for years. Both schools want Utah to schedule home and home series, and the Utes simply refuse to do that. Utah would be fine playing the Wildcats and Aggies if they made the trip to Salt Lake — it just isn’t willing to return the favor. Weber State and Utah State would no doubt join the feast in Salt Lake.

Utah, you have tried and failed to start a new tradition, but it can be saved. Set the table, welcome in your state family and dine over some basketball.

The in-state basketball tournament: a new Thanksgiving tradition.

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