OGDEN -- A neutral site tournament featuring Utah's college basketball teams wouldn't be as meaningful as in-state rivalry games played on home courts.
That's the consensus of Utah State coach Stew Morrill and Weber State coach Randy Rahe, longtime colleagues and compatriots who will face each other in just such a contest tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Dee Events Center.
"It's huge for us, obviously," Rahe said of playing an in-state school at home. "It's great for our fans to have these schools like BYU that will come here and play, Utah State that will come here and play. Southern Utah now is in our league (and) we've started a series with Utah Valley, so we want to play in-state, and to have them on our home court is really a good situation for us. Everybody gets excited about it, our fans, our players, the community. I think there's a lot of interest within the state when schools play each other."
Tonight's game will be meaningful for another reason: Morrill will be coaching his milestone 500th game as USU's coach, many of which happened with Rahe on the bench beside him as an assistant. Rahe worked for Morrill for 13 years -- seven at Colorado State and six in Logan.
The idea of an in-state tournament, perhaps played at EnergySolutions Arena, has been discussed in the past and was recently brought up again by University of Utah athletics director Chris Hill. Hill told the Salt Lake Tribune he has approached BYU, Utah State and Weber State with the possibility of a four-team tourney at ESA, starting as soon as 2015.
That type of tournament would likely preclude Utah playing in-state road games in Provo and Logan; since joining the Pac-12, the Utes have already ruled out playing Weber State in Ogden.
Utah also hasn't played in Logan since 2011, though Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak has agreed to an upcoming home-and-home series with USU.
Morrill's position on a tournament: "My first concern is preserving our home-and-home in-state games," he said. "I'm not against an in-state tournament, I just don't know how we would do it and preserve our home-and-home situations. We've got a three-year deal with BYU, we play Weber State home-and-home, we've got a contract to start a home-and-home with Utah. Those are my first concerns. If we can preserve those home-and-homes and have a tournament somewhere down the road, that would be fine, I'm not against that."
Rahe has a similar view.
"I think it would be great on one hand, but I don't want to give up having BYU in our gym or Utah State in our gym and I think if you went to that, that's obviously what it would be and nobody would be playing home games against each other," he said prior to the season. "Those are phenomenal home games that I would hate to pass up."
Rahe had a counter proposal: A tournament involving in-state teams "maybe not against each other, but bring in other schools to play against," he said. "I'm always open to something like that."
He understands and respects Utah's right and prerogative to decide its own schedule, Rahe said, though he's thankful other state schools will still play Weber State. He's willing to play at the Huntsman Center whenever the Utes are ready.
"We'll go down there and play a guarantee game," Rahe said. "It'd be pretty easy for us to travel down the road and make a little money for our program. That's what we have to do every year. We're really hopeful we'll get to that (with Utah)."
There is no in-state tournament this year for Weber State and Utah State, just good ol' fashioned in-state rivalry.
Tonight, the Wildcats' task at hand is to contain 6-foot-10 Utah State center Jarred Shaw and ace shooting guard Preston Medlin, who each average 15.5 points per game for an Aggies team that has already beaten USC of the Pac-12 and SEC school Mississippi State. Shaw averages 7.8 rebounds per game, while guard/forward Spencer Butterfield contributes 13.8 ppg.
Now preparing for its first year in the Mountain West Conference, USU is 4-0 for the first time in six years and for the fifth time in Morrill's 16-year tenure. Rahe believes USU, which is already receiving votes, will soon be in the Top 25.
Weber State (0-2) is hoping senior center Kyle Tresnak will be able to make a significant contribution against the Aggies. Tresnak, the Wildcats' best post scorer, sprained his ankle in WSU's loss at Colorado State 10 days ago but will play tonight.
Senior guard/forward Davion Berry leads WSU at 17.5 ppg. Tresnak averages 16.5 ppg and sophomore forward Joel Bolomboy averages 11.5 points and 9.0 rebounds. True freshman Jeremy Senglin, who has averaged 14.0 points per game while starting the first two games at point guard, will trade places with senior Jordan Richardson, who will run the point while Senglin starts at shooting guard.