Utah will play at Saint Marys of the West Coast Conference later this week to open tournament play. The Gaels (22-11) finished fourth overall in the WCC behind Gonzaga, BYU and San Francisco and were eliminated by Gonzaga 70-54 in the conference tournament semifinals.
Saint Marys is a traditional NCAA Tournament team led by Brad Waldow and Stephen Holt. Both average double figures in scoring, shoot the ball well from the field -- and Holt shoots 44 percent from three-point range.
The Utes are seeded fifth -- which came as a surprise to Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak. The school submitted paperwork to host a first-round game, however, the tournament selection committee elected otherwise.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed,” Krystkowiak said in an interview with the Deseret News on Sunday, March 16. “I’d love to have a chance to play again in the Huntsman in front of our crowd, but it’s like everything else — it’s just about moving on and getting prepared for the next opportunity.”
The Utes will have to do just that -- especially after getting thumped 71-39 by Arizona in the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament. That loss, along with a season-ending heart-breaker at Stanford officially popped Utah’s bubble for NCAA Tournament inclusion.
Now Utah gets a fresh start in the sleepy college town of Moraga, Calif, where its road to New York begins where it hasn’t been all that successful this year -- a long way from home.