So they’re not the hottest team in the country and have slumped to the point that my March 2014 prediction of the Utes being a four-seed was narrowly missed. I’ve been further off on other predictions – I see you 2015 Buffs – so I won’t soon lose any sleep over this. What I might lose some sleep over is how tough these Utes really are. There’s a je ne sias quoi that I’m going to try to sais quoi: They don’t have it. Whatever that gene is that allows you to flush goldfish down the toilet or take the last piece of cake at not your birthday party or win a close basketball game, that seems to be missing for the Utes. They’re just 4-11 the last two years in games decided by 6 points or fewer. Sometimes in a tournament you’ve got to be able to do that. Can the Utes? My hope is that the imminent finality of these fantastic two years instills some of that DGAF in Delon Wright. He’s too good to play just one more time for us.
STEPHEN F. AUSTIN LUMBERJACKS
These guys have lost just once since 2014. That was a road game on Valentine’s Day to a team coached by a guy named Willis Wilson. Anyhow, these guys shouldn’t be taken lightly. They knocked off VCU last year and a lot of what you’ll hear this week surrounds the similarities between SFA and Oregon. If you’ll recall, Oregon just beat Utah. So what’s that necessarily mean? They’re a tremendous shooting team, connecting on 38.7% of their threes and the nation’s sixth highest 2FG%. They aren’t big, running out a front court of 6’4”, 6’5” and 6’6” of which the 6’6” one (Jacob Parker) makes a Brandon Taylor-esque 48% of his threes (54-113). The Lumberjacks will stretch the floor. I’m curious if this is the kind of game where Jordan Loveridge can be a bully and less of a shooter. Against Oregon he took just two shots inside the arc and didn’t make a single bucket. Against Stanford he attacked the rim and went 4-5 from inside the arc with his 3-5 from distance the icing to those 18-points.
- The Utes are dancing for the first time since they were left a 6 win roster by Jim Boylen. Larry K has done a terrific job returning one of the winningest programs in CBB history to its rightful place amongst the dancers.
- There’s a potential Sweet Sixteen matchup with former MWC running mate SDSU
- First and Second round games are in Portland where Delon Wright’s brother – Dorell – is a Trailblazer and where Damian Lilard thinks Pac-12 coaches are trippin’
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING
“This is a team built for making a postseason run.”
“Upset alert: Utah is on notice, or at least it should be.” – ESPN CBB Blog
“What comes out of the Utah locker room does not just smell good; it looks pretty good, too.” – New York Times
Just got an email that said this. pic.twitter.com/eh6QAi5qBO
— . (@Utebuntu) March 16, 2015
It’s interesting because this “pod” isn’t necessarily the most overwhelming. SFA is solid but hasn’t really played anyone for awhile. Some have Georgetown as the most over-seeded four in the tournament. According to KenPom they’re the third best of the fours. Alas, if John Calipari and Bryce Alford are right, then all teams are now 0-0. Examining things in that vacuum, I really like the Utes into the Sweet Sixteen. They have everything you’d want in a tournament team and are only about three weeks removed from being a three-seed. Glaringly lacking is any semblance of tournament success or even experience. But we’re all 0-0, right?