By Tom Hackett
Roughly three weeks ago the University of Utah Men’s Basketball team lost its opener in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic to San Francisco, and hope to make the NCAA tournament in March was thrown out the window. Three weeks later, one point separated the Utah Utes and the number 4 UCLA Bruins, and fans are starting to see some promise and fight in the team. The loss to the Bruins ended in devastating fashion, with Kuzma opting for a fade away three-point shot, but what exactly does the loss to the Bruins mean for the Utes?
Utah currently sits 80th in RPI (Rating Percentage Index), which is worrying considering there are only 68 teams that get selected for the NCAA tournament come March. RPI, for those wondering, is a format used to rank sport teams based on their wins and losses as well as their strength of schedule. The NCAA tournament and the Utah basketball team are currently involved in a complicated relationship; every week it feels as though opinions differ as to whether or not they are worthy enough. The regular season is officially 56% done, with plenty of important basketball games left including two bouts with the highly touted Oregon Ducks. The past fortnight has been a great indication on where this team is at, from highly talented newcomers in Collette and Barefield, to natural shooters in JoJo Zamora. Yes, not everything is perfect (Rawson and Van Dyke in slumps…), however, there are more positives than negatives at this point, which for Utah fans, should be considered nothing short of a miracle after the way the season started.
Some advice for Utah fans would be to take it one game at a time, do not look too far ahead (Oregon), as the Cal Bears and Washington State Cougars are more than capable of intruding on the rise that is Utah basketball. With how we are playing at the minute I do not see any reason for Utah fans to panic about the tournament, for my biggest fear is that we lose a game we know we shouldn’t lose. Being on the bubble of tournament selection simply means one thing, we cannot afford any more slip ups. Scary times ahead for Coach K and his men.