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Utah basketball: Utes NCAA hopes dealt blow with heartbreaking loss at Stanford

Above all this week, the Utah Utes basketball team had to win both of its games in order to avoid watching its NCAA Tournament bubble burst.

Utah center Jeremy Olsen.
Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

After winning its first game at Cal this week Utah had the momentum needed to hold out hope for a second win. But a 61-60 setback at Stanford on Saturday, March 8 will burst that bubble for now.

The 20-10 Utes may still make it to the NCAAs; they just won’t do so as an at-large team. They needed a win over the Cardinal, ranked No. 45 in the latest RPI -- and they simply didn't get it.

Stanford is assured of moving up in not only the Pac-12 conference standings -- where it was tied with Utah before Saturday’s win -- it will also improve on its RPI rating.

As for the Utes who desperately needed a win in Palo Alto, Calif. Saturday, they now must win out at the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas beginning later this week -- in order to have any chance of making it to the NCAA Tournament.

Utah will go somewhere in the postseason regardless of how it does at the MGM Grand Arena in Vegas at the conference tourney; it will likely be the NIT basketball tournament where it goes, however -- and not the Big Dance.

That’s based on the Utes’ No. 75 RPI rating -- which is bound to drop after today’s loss -- as well as a weak non-conference schedule and a poor record of winning road games in conference.

At home, Utah is unstoppable -- having lost just twice in conference to two ranked teams, No. 10 Oregon and No. 4 Arizona.

On the road, however, which is where the Utes would go if they were to make the NCAA’s -- is the main reason it’s best for fans to consider the NIT a suitable destination.

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