LAS VEGAS — It wasn’t even the remotest of possibilities a few days ago, but all of a sudden the Utah basketball team may be looking at going to a postseason tournament.
Say what? How can the Utes go to a postseason tournament with a losing record?
Of course the Utes’ NCAA hopes were still alive after Thursday night’s victory, but a lot of people forget there are three postseason tournaments now for Division I basketball teams.
The Utes would be unlikely to get an NIT bid, but the CBI (College Basketball Invitational) in which they played back in 2008 is a possibility.
The 16-team CBI has a history of taking teams with losing records from the Pac-12 Conference.
In 2009, Oregon State was invited with a 13-17 record and ended up going all the way and winning the championship. The next year, the Beavers were invited again with a 14-17 record, but lost in the first round.
In 2011, it was Oregon’s turn, being invited with a 16-17 record and going on to win the whole thing, beating Creighton in the finals.
Then last year, Washington State started the tournament with a 15-16 record and made it all the way to the finals before losing to Pitt.
There is one other postseason tournament, the College Insider Tournament, but it hasn’t taken teams from “BCS conferences” in the past.
POSTSEASON POSSIBILITIES: With five Pac-12 teams — UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Cal and Colorado — considered “locks” for the NCAA Tournament, other conference teams may be looking at postseason berths as well.
Arizona State would seem to be the best bet for the NIT with Washington and Stanford as possibilities for the NIT or the CBI.
SHOULDER CHIP: A lot of folks were surprised that Utah forward Jordan Loveridge didn’t make the all-Pac 12 freshman team or even honorable mention. Especially Loveridge and his coach, who noted that he was fourth in scoring and second in rebounding among league freshmen.
Loveridge has been playing his best basketball of the season the last couple of weeks, and it happens to come after his snub.
“I know Jordan really well from the recruiting process and know he plays really well with a chip on his shoulder,” Krystkowiak said. “I think that’s what we’re seeing right now is that he is trying to prove some people wrong.”
NO BIG DEAL: Utah making it to the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament may seem like a big deal to Ute followers who have suffered through a few tough seasons, but the Utes aren’t getting much notice elsewhere.
In Friday’s edition of the Las Vegas Journal-Review, the Ute upset over Cal merited a grand total of three paragraphs. The night before on ESPN’s SportsCenter, the Utes were an afterthought despite the upset win over Cal, getting mentioned at the very end of the show along with Oregon as teams winning in the Pac-12 quarters earlier in the evening.
PRACTICE PAYS: Jarred DuBois, the hero of the first two Ute wins in Las Vegas with 22 points in the win over USC and 21 points and the game-tying shot in regulation in the overtime win over Cal, has played his best ball of the season during the last five games prior to Friday when he averaged 19.0 points per game.
It’s no surprise to Krystkowiak.
“There is not a kid, if there is a kid in college basketball, that puts more time in away from practice in terms of shooting, repetition,” he said. “I’m talking hundreds and hundred of shots a day. So when you give yourself an environment like this, I’m a firm believer in the basketball gods. It’s pretty special knowing the kinds of hours he puts in.”
SELLOUT: After some spotty crowds the first two days, the Pac-12 tournament had its first sellout for the evening session Friday.
It was packed for the UCLA-Arizona game with thanks to a large contingent of Wildcat fans. A lot of those Arizona fans didn’t stick around for the second game between Utah and Oregon with their team eliminated from the tournament, leaving a lot of empty green seats.
COMEBACK KIDS: For the second straight night, UCLA overcame a double-digit deficit to beat teams from Arizona.
The Bruins trailed Arizona State by 15 points with seven minutes left, only to rally and beat the Sun Devils by five.
On Friday night, the Bruins trailed Arizona by 11 points at the midway point of the second half, only to claw their way back and win 64-62.
That continued the string of exciting games that were contested the first day. In the first two rounds, there were three overtime games out of eight with no games decided by more than 10 points.
NOTES: Utah's 15 first-half points were its season low — by far. The Utes' previous low was 22 in games against Idaho State and Cal. There were just four fouls — total — called in the first half of the Utah-Oregon game, including two by Duck reserve Johnathan Loyd in the final two minutes. After combining for 59 points the night before, Utah's Jason Washburn, Jordan Loveridge and Jarred DuBois could only manage a combined three points on 1-of-10 shooting in Friday's first half.
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