SALT LAKE CITY — When Utah and Oregon State square off in the Huntsman Center Thursday night, there won’t be any championship implications.
Far from it, as a matter of fact, with both the Utes and Beavers bringing 3-13 conference records and four-game losing streaks into the game.
Even so, there’s still something on the line — even if it is just the No. 10 seed in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament. Thursday’s winner will likely clinch the position with 12th-place Washington State having to face UCLA and USC this week.
And, yes, finishing with the highest seed possible is a big deal to both squads — albeit in different ways.
For rebuilding Utah, it’s an opportunity to inch up from last year’s No. 11 spot.
“I think building a program is about improvement. I think we’re considerably better than we were a year ago and I think the league is considerably better than it was a year ago,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “I don’t want to end up in the same slot that we were a year ago. It would be nice if we could move up the ladder, even if it’s one notch. It’s about gaining ground on where we want to get to.”
Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, meanwhile, is looking at the situation from a different perspective.
“For us, we’re viewing this as a real preparation for the following weekend,” he said. “It’s important to get a higher seed, but its much more important to play well on the road and sort of get our mindset right for the Pac-12 Tournament.”
Utah and Oregon State have endured similar campaigns in terms of close conference losses. Both teams have dropped five games by margins of five points or less this season.
“I wouldn’t say frustrating is the word. The season is not over at this point. That’s probably something to reflect back on when it’s all said and done — add them up and talk about woulda, coulda, shouldas and that kind of stuff,” Krytskowiak said. “But right now we’re still in a position where I think everybody in our league is trying to improve their position.”
Whether it’s feasible or not to move up, he added, the main goal at this point is to become a team that is playing better basketball going into the tournament. A win on Thursday would certainly help.
“That improves the standings and accomplishes the goal of getting things clicking heading into Vegas,” Krystkowiak said.
EXTRA STUFF: Utah’s Jason Washburn is just two points away from becoming the 35th player in program history to score 1,000 in his career ... Oregon State junior guard Roberto Nelson reached the milestone last week, becoming the 38th Beaver to do so ... The Beavers defeated the Utes 82-64 in Corvallis on Feb. 6.
Oregon State (13-16, 3-13)
at Utah (11-17, 3-13)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM