Utah basketball: Regular-season finale holds a lot of scenarios for Runnin' Utes
Tom Smart, Deseret News
STANFORD, Calif. — So many scenarios. In nutshell, that’s the storyline for Utah’s regular-season finale at Stanford.
Saturday afternoon’s game at Maples Pavilion is loaded with seeding implications for next week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas. If the Utes beat the Cardinal, they could be the fourth, fifth or sixth seed. A loss will put them in at seventh or eighth.
The outcome, plus the result of four other games Saturday, will determine seeding for the conference tournament through tiebreaking scenarios.
In other words, there’s a logjam in the standings — and a serious one at that. Entering the final day of the season, Utah, California, Oregon and Stanford are 9-8 in Pac-12 play. Arizona State and Colorado are 10-7, while Oregon State is 8-9.
“There’s nobody or any statement that could put any more pressure on me than I already feel,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “You get kind of amped up and maxed to win a game.”
The picture will eventually become clear, he added, and then the Utes will jump into a scouting report on Sunday.
If things work out in a best-case scenario, they could finish fourth and receive a first-round bye — meaning their first game in the tourney wouldn’t be until Thursday.
Utah guard Delon Wright acknowledged that would be nice to get.
“I think it is a playoff game,” he said. “So we are well-aware of that.”
Wright noted that the Utes have pretty much treated the final games of the regular season like postseason contests. The stretch began with an overtime loss to Arizona and then victories over Arizona State, Colorado and California.
“We know they’re tournament teams and if we get a win it will help us out,” Wright said.
Brandon Taylor, Utah’s other starter in the backcourt, agrees. He acknowledged that Saturday’s game against Stanford is a big one for the Utes.
“We have to dial in and come ready to battle,” said Taylor, who added that they have a good opportunity to finish the season off on a high note — four straight victories, including two on the road.
Sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge said it fits into what the team has hoped to do all along.
“We want to be playing the best basketball at the end of the season,” he explained.
Loveridge admitted that Saturday's contest does have the feel of a playoff game.
“It’s a must-win game, of course, because wins are hard to come by at this time of year,” he said. “So it’s going to be tough.”
All the scenarios and implications, Loveridge noted, simply need to be put aside and the Utes just need to play the game.
“We’ve been playing basketball all our lives,” he said. “You’ve almost got to treat it like it’s another game. We’ve got to go out and play, play as hard as we can.”
Loveridge added that they need to know that not everything may go their way.
“We can’t control what happens in the rest of the Pac-12 or the games in the future,” he said. “We can just control the game that we’ve got (Saturday).”
EXTRA STUFF: Utah has not won at Maples Pavilion since 1971. ... The Utes lead the all-time series with Stanford by a 15-10 margin. ... The Cardinal are led by junior guard Chasson Randle (18.7 ppg) and senior forward Dwight Powell (14.3 ppg). ... Stanford enters the game on a three-game skid, with losses to Arizona State (76-64), Arizona (79-66) and Colorado (59-56).
Utah (20-9, 9-8) at Stanford (18-11, 9-8)
Maples Pavilion — Stanford, Calif.
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Radio: 700 AM
Pac-12 Seeding Scenario Saturday
Utah (9-8) at Stanford (9-8)
Arizona (15-2) at Oregon (9-8)
USC (2-15) at Washington (8-9)
Arizona State (10-7) at Oregon State (7-10)
Colorado (10-7) at California (9-8)
UCLA (12-5) at Washington State (2-15)
The scenarios for Utah’s seeding at the Pac-12 tourney
No. 4 with a win over Stanford and losses by Colorado and Oregon
No. 5 with win over Stanford, a Colorado win and an Oregon loss
No. 6 with a win over Stanford and wins by Colorado and Oregon
No. 7 with loss to Stanford
No. 8 with loss to Stanford and a win by California
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