In the world of Utah college basketball, there seems to be an elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about right now.
A team that is one big win from reaching 20 wins overall this season -- and that just demolished a surefire NCAA Tournament team called the Colorado Buffaloes 75-64 on Saturday, March 1 by going on a 25-2 run in the last 15 minutes to end the game.
That team is the Utah Utes, a team that hasn’t won 20 games since the 2008-09 season -- and that has transformed itself from a laughingstock of in-state college basketball to a serious competitor.
How good are these Utes under Larry Krystkowiak? Ask BYU, who had won nine straight games against Utah before coming to the Huntsman Center -- the Utes home court -- and losing handily in December before a packed house filled with Utah fans.
The Cougars also just eked by San Diego 78-70 on Saturday, March 1, not exactly the kind of result you’d want from a tournament-bound team to end the season.
BYU is currently the No. 2 seed in the upcoming West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas, one it must win in order to be assured of a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The problem for BYU is that Gonzaga is the No. 1 seed in the WCC tourney and the team the Cougars must get past in order to clinch that automatic NCAA berth.
An early season loss to the Utes, not to mention losses to every big team it has played (Wichita State, UMass) has put the 21-10 Cougars in a tough predicament going into March Madness.
And while nobody in Bracketology is counting Utah in at this point, the Utes have a huge Pac-12 Conference game coming up on Wednesday at California -- another bubble team Bracketology has as a No. 11 seed.
Should Utah win at Cal -- and at Stanford -- that gives the Utes over 20 wins going into the Pac-12 Conference Tournament. Two things hinder Utah’s chance at an at-large NCAA bid: one is its buttery soft non-conference schedule and second is its inability to win away from home.
But, wins over Colorado, UCLA and a near-upset of No. 4 Arizona at home make you think that if the Utes continue their defensive dominance for a few more games -- and get hot in Vegas during their conference tourney -- it may be Utah gettting into and BYU out of the Big Dance.