Kristin Murphy, Deseret News, Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — Despite a 13-17 record, the Utah Utes still have an opportunity to reach the Big Dance. They can earn the Pac-12's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament with four consecutive wins this week.
Although improbable, especially as a No. 10 seed, there is a blueprint of sorts to draw inspiration from.
A year ago, No. 6 Colorado pulled it off. The Buffaloes reeled off four straight victories to take top honors at the Pac-12 Tournament.
“The way you do it is by taking care of business today and living in the day and not worrying about what’s ahead,” said Colorado coach Tad Boyle. “You’ve just got to take care of the present because this thing is over before you know it.”
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak is well aware that the only way the Utes can be part of March Madness is by putting four strong outings together. That said, though, he's expecting all the teams in the conference to take everybody's best punch in what could be a relatively wide-open tournament.
"There’s really no games that anybody is mailing in and thinks that they have a wrap on,” Krystkowiak said.
Senior center Jason Washburn, thus, is taking a confident approach into his final game and/or games with the Utes.
“I can’t afford to think, 'Oh, if I lose, this is it.’ I can’t afford to think that way because we’re not trying to back down from anyone,” he said. “We’re not going into this game hoping for a win. We’re going into this game expecting to win.”
THREE TOWERS: Interim USC coach Bob Cantu spoke with the media about the suspensions of 7-footers Dewayne Dedmon and James Blasczyk. He emphasized that the duo won’t play against Utah because they violated team rules. The alleged incident involving assaults in Spokane over the weekend is a separate matter.
“The thing about it that’s great is you have two 7-footers who are suspended indefinitely but you still have a third one (7-foot-2 junior Omar Oraby) and not many teams have that luxury,” Cantu said. “ The fact is we do have depth inside. So I think we can definitely absorb that.”
Cantu added that the Trojans also have tweeners that they can move over to power forward if needed.
EXTRA STUFF: The Utes arrived in Las Vegas on Monday and had what Krystkowiak called “a great team meal” at a fancy steakhouse. He said it helped them get acclimated. USC leads the all-time series with Utah, 17-14, and has won the last three meetings. The Trojans are 8-8 since Cantu replaced Kevin O’Neill as head coach following the 76-59 win at Utah on Jan. 12.
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