The "triangle and two" sounds like a dance step you could try at the local country and western hangout, or maybe the answer to a problem on a geometry test. Who would have thought it could make an entire state giddy with excitement?
"Triangle and two," as all basketball fans now know, is the hybrid zone and man-to-man defense University of Utah Coach Rick Majerus employed as a secret weapon against the University of Arizona last Saturday. If all secret plans worked this well, there would be no suspense left in life.At least, there was little real suspense Saturday when the U. demolished Arizona by a surprisingly overwhelming 76-51 score to earn a spot in the vaunted Final Four of the NCAA tournament. Victories like that don't come every day, or every year, or every decade for that matter. Utah hasn't been in the Final Four since 1966. No wonder Utahns of all stripes, even ones who normally root for a different university south of the U., are walking a little taller now.
Utah rose to this pinnacle using more than just a fancy defense. Old-fashioned hard work and fundamentals are the hallmark of this team. The Utes aren't laden with the types of flashy players that have come to define basketball in the latter part of the century - players who fly through the air with superhuman athletic skill while trash-talking their opponents. They are instead laden with hard-working average types, young men who trust their coach and are willing to do what he says; guys who believe anything is possible with grit and determination.
In this case, grit and determination held the defending national champions to 40 points below average. Arizona made only 28 percent of the shots it attempted. No wonder people all over the state are proud of this team.
But there are other reasons to be proud. Utah's players take the classroom seriously, as well. Two of them, Michael Doleac and Drew Hansen, were named Academic All-Americans earlier this month.
The road from here doesn't get any easier. On Saturday, the Utes will need more grit and determination to get past North Carolina. Regardless of the outcome, they have earned a special spot in the hearts of all Utahns, becoming winners in every sense of the word.