Utah Utes basketball notebook: Larry Krystkowiak hopes he packed light

By dirk Facer

Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, March 6 2012 9:09 p.m. MST

LOS ANGELES — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak didn't pack for an extended stay at the Pac-12 Tournament.

That doesn't mean, however, that he plans on returning back to Salt Lake City soon.

"I brought one suit and one tie," Krystkowiak said. "If I have to go out and get something else tomorrow it's just going to be a bonus."

It was in 2006 when Krystkowiak coached Montana into the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Huntsman Center. He said it was fun heading downtown to Nordstrom and picking something out after the Grizzlies prevailed in their opener.

Although Krystkowiak stopped short of predicting the outcome of Wednesday's Utah-Colorado game, he did promise one thing.

"You can't say much more than we have nothing to lose and we're just going to make sure we go down swinging — if we go down," he said.

Looking beyond the task at hand just isn't how Krystkowiak rolls.

"You better stay in the moment or life has a tendency to jump up and bite you right in the buttocks as Forrest (Gump) said," he explained.

TOURNAMENT TIME: Krystkowiak acknowledged there's something special about postseason play.

"It's a great time of year. I love the March Madness and the excitement of it all. It's really neat," he said. "It takes on a little different air when you're an underdog and you're trying to stir some things up."

After all, noted junior guard Chris Hines: "Everybody's at 0-0 right now."

As such, Utah can still qualify for the NCAA Tournament. If would require, however, four consecutive victories in Los Angeles.

"It could be done," Hines said.

The mere thought of going to the Big Dance as an automatic qualifier — after a 6-24 season — has the Utes dreaming big.

"The way we look at it is we win four games and all of sudden we're in the NCAA Tournament and all of sudden people look at our season differently — even if we still technically have a bad record," said junior center Jason Washburn. "But obviously that would be fantastic. Obviously that's our goal. But we've got to take it one game at a time."

TOUGH SPOT: Washburn readily notes that the Utes put themselves in a position — as a No. 11 seed — where it'll be a long road to postseason success.

"We're going to have to win four games, obviously, starting with Colorado — one of the tougher teams in our conference," he said. "(They're) obviously one of the teams that fed us one of our worst losses (73-33 on Dec. 31 in Boulder) and most painful memories."

The Buffaloes are also a team, Washburn added, that the Utes played tough in a 55-48 setback in the Huntsman Center on Feb. 18.

Washburn said the improved outcome was the result of dialing into the game plan and making adjustments.

"That's what we're doing here," he continued.

GETTING READY: The Utes practiced at West Los Angeles College Tuesday, spending one hour, 45 minutes on the court gearing up for Colorado.

"I think we've got a pretty decent plan and the guys have responded the past couple of days," Krystkowiak said while noting he hoped the Utes come out with reckless abandon and lay it all on the line against the Buffaloes.

Washburn predicts they'll be prepared to do so.

"We're looking forward to the opportunity of playing with nothing to lose," he said. "So there's no reason to leave anything out on the court. It's going to be fun. We're going to have a lot of fun."

BIG-TIME VENUE: The Utes are excited about playing in the home of L.A.'s two NBA teams — the Lakers and Clippers — on Wednesday.

"Absolutely. Our hotel is right next to the Staples Center, just looking at it you're like 'Wow that's where Blake Griffin and Kobe (Bryant) play," Washburn said. "It's going to be like magic a little bit and it's going to be fun. We're looking forward to it."

ANOTHER BOUNCE BACK?: When Colorado blasted Utah by 40 points in the Pac-12 season opener, the Utes bounced back five days later to defeat Washington State in overtime, 62-60.

"I've said all year that I think one of the strengths of this team is being able to bounce back from a loss," Washburn said. "We did the same thing after Colorado, which at the time was our biggest loss of the season."

That low point, though, was topped by last Saturday's school-record 46-point loss at Oregon.

"That's something we're going to have to live with forever unfortunately," Washburn said. "But we've got a heckuva opportunity ahead of us. We've got a chance to beat a team that beat us twice."

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Twitter: DirkFacer

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