He is only 18 years old. What does he know? But Britton Johnsen, a freshman forward for the University of Utah, is aware that that somewhere, back in the mists of time, the Utes attended the Final Four.
"I don't know who the heck was on those teams," said Johnsen.When you're 18 and the world is ahead, last week is ancient history. For all Johnsen knows, 32 years ago - the last time the Utes went to the Final Four - was the height of the Bronze Age. Jerry Chambers? Hmmmm. Sounds like a talk show host.
Still, it was a long time ago, even for those older than 18. Today's Utah-Arizona matchup in the NCAA Western Regional Finals marks a chance for the Utes to return to the Final Four for the first time since 1966, the year Chambers averaged 28.7 points a game. That year, the Utes finished 21-6 in the regular season. One of their main players, George Fisher, broke his leg late in the year, and the Utes' hopes appeared dead. But Chambers was phenomenal in the NCAAs, taking the Utes to the Final Four where they lost to Texas Western (now UTEP), the eventual national champion. Utah finished fourth, losing to Duke by two in the game for third place. Chambers was MVP of the tournament.
That, however, was only Utah's third trip to the Final Four. In 1961, led by Billy "The Hill" McGill, they ran into Cincinnati, where they lost 82-67 in the national semifinal game, then fell 127-120 to St. Joseph's in the consolation game.
Utah's only national title came in 1944. It went 18-4 in the regular season. The Utes were on their way back from losing in the first round of the NIT - a more prestigious tournament at the time - when they were informed that several Arkansas players were injured in a car accident. Utah filled in and went on to beat Missouri, Iowa State and Dartmouth to take the NCAA Championship.
So with only Arizona standing in between the Utes and their fourth Final Four appearance, is destiny on their side? Does a team that lost its best player to the NBA a year ago have any business with the best of teams?
"I don't know about destiny, but we have Mike (Doleac) and Andre (Miller), and they're two great players. Maybe it's time to take it one step further," said forward Alex Jensen.
Johnsen, using all 18 years of wisdom, agreed.
"Yeah, it's time to go back," he said. "We have some big-time stars. It would be great to go back."
The problem for the Utes is that today's opponent, Arizona, is the top seed in the West Regional and defending national champion. Two years ago the Utes lost in the tournament to eventual champion Kentucky. Last year they also got to the Elite Eight of the tournament and lost again to Kentucky. Now it's Arizona in their way.
Whatever the case, the Utes are as close as you can get to being in the Final Four. "I hope we've got a couple more cards left in the deck," said coach Rick Majerus.
He added: "It would be nice to kind of be able to say you got there. But a lot of it, to be quite frank with you, is luck."