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Utah Passes The NCAA Eyeball Test, But The Resume Is Weak

Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports analyst Casey Jacobsen agreed on Friday’s Bill Riley Show that it’s go-time for Utah.

Utah’s non-conference basketball schedule was a very weak one for a team wanting to go to the NCAA Tournament for a third consecutive season. They had unique issues, replacing almost an entire team with a mix of transfers and incoming freshmen, forcing Larry Krystkowiak to schedule an easier schedule to help the team gel together without suffering too many losses.

Balancing “not cutting your teeth on oatmeal” and acquiring confidence for the new squad was a tricky task, and the Utes are finally looking like the team Krystkowiak had envisioned in the offseason. But with losses to Xavier and Butler pre-Sedrick Barefield/David Collette and a less-than-ideal showing in the Diamond Head Classic over the Christmas weekend, the Utes need a very strong showing in conference play to make themselves attractive to the NCAA selection committee.

The Utes don’t have many bad losses–just San Francisco in Hawaii. Even that can be somewhat excused with the absence of Kyle Kuzma for all but a minute of the game. But they don’t have many marquee wins either, and they’ll need several to make a case for an at-large bid.

After a lukewarm start to the season, the Utes have rattled off four conference wins in six tries, losing just to Arizona and UCLA, while winning comfortable over the others. But the Pac-12 conference is considered weak this season. No. 3 UCLA, No. 11 Oregon, and No. 14 Arizona are considered locks for the Big Dance. USC looked strong and were ranked until they lost to Utah and Cal consecutively. The Trojans, Utes, and Bears are on the bubble, but Utah needs more “good” wins than the others.

The problem: They lost to Arizona and UCLA, and don’t play either again this season. They play Oregon twice still, but the rest of the conference schedule appears very soft. With one eyebrow-raising win over then-No. 25 USC, the Utes will likely need to at least split against the Ducks AND win the rest of their conference games AND have a strong showing in the Pac-12 tournament to put themselves in the conversation.

The Utes path may be slightly easier, though, with an injury to Ducks star Dillon Brooks. But with or without Brooks playing for Oregon, Utah’s task is still a tall one.

Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports analyst Casey Jacobsen agreed on Friday’s Bill Riley Show that it’s go-time for Utah.

Utah looks good, but needs a stronger resume:

The Pac-12 is weak, and may need Utah to push for a 4th bid:

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