BERKELEY, Calif. — Before embarking on the final Pac-12 road trip of the season, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak patiently answered questions about the possibilities that await the Utes if they’re successful at California on Wednesday and Stanford on Saturday.
"We are in a heck of a league and we control our own destiny. If we can win some games and move on up, that’s great," Krystkowiak said. "It’s great to be in a position to affect the NCAA Tournament. It’s a reward for being involved in that talk, but we need to get ready to go in and play against two quality teams this weekend.”
A sweep could lead to a bye in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament. If nothing else, it would certainly reward the Utes with a high seed. Then there’s the whole NCAA tourney thing. Would wins over the Bears and Cardinal be enough to enhance their resume for an at-large berth? They visit the Bay Area on the heels of an overtime loss to projected No. 1-seed Arizona and lopsided wins over probable tournament teams Arizona State and Colorado.
Simply put, there is great uncertainty about Utah’s situation when it comes to postseason play.
“It’s tough not to look at the games ahead, but all we can do is control the next game and control the next half really,” said sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge. “So we’re just looking at the next team, really — just trying to focus on our next opponent. That’s all we can control. That’s all we can focus on right now.”
“All I know is the only thing that we can control right now is how we can compete against Cal,” said Krystkowiak, who isn’t looking past the Bears and the possibility of finishing with 10 conference victories by also getting a win at Stanford over the weekend. “I know the only thing I’m thinking about right now is trying to get nine, just trying to get one more than we have.”
Although the Bears (18-11, 9-7) have lost three of their last four games, they do hold the distinction of handing then-No. 1 Arizona its first loss of the season — 60-58 on Feb. 1. Senior guard Justin Cobbs (15.8 points, 5.8 assists) and senior forward Richard Solomon (9.8 rebounds) are among the Pac-12’s statistical leaders.
Cal is among seven teams, including Utah, mired in a Pac-12 standings logjam. Just two games separate places fourth through 10th — plus, a third-place finish is still a mathematical possibility for several teams. Those in the top four receive a first-round bye.
However, as Krystkowiak has repeatedly reiterated, such thoughts are secondary to the task at hand for Utah.
“The thing that we need to be most focused on is going on the road at Cal and competing,” he said. “Some good things can happen.
Utah (19-9, 8-8) at California (18-11, 9-7)
Haas Pavilion — Berkeley, Calif.
Wednesday, 9 p.m. MST