I still think we can finish in the top four in our conference and receive that bye. Until somebody tells me we can’t accomplish that, we’re going to keep striving for that. —Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah basketball has its sights set on a top 4 finish.
Entering a season-ending stretch featuring five of seven games at home, the Utes (13-9, 5-6) are determined to finish Pac-12 play in one of the top four slots and earn a first-round bye in next month’s conference tournament in Las Vegas.
Utah is mired in a logjam in its quest for such a position. The Utes are tied for seventh with Arizona State and Colorado at 5-6. The group is two games behind current fourth-place occupiers Stanford and UCLA (7-4). The Utes and Sun Devils are the only contending teams with just two road games remaining.
Arizona (9-2), USC (8-3) and Washington (7-3) are the present front-runners.
“I still think we can finish in the top four in our conference and receive that bye,” Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said at his weekly press conference on Tuesday. “That’s a significant goal, I think, to have, and until somebody tells me we can’t accomplish that, we’re going to keep striving for that.”
Krystkowiak, though, isn’t taking anything for granted with the high number of home games remaining.
“On paper, it’s not a hill that we can ‘t climb,” he said before noting that the Pac-12 has shown some parity and that some crazy things that can happen.
As such, Krystkowiak emphasized that the whole focus is on Thursday and winning the next game.
“We’re staying in the moment and focused on what it is we can control, which is trying to figure out how to beat the Stanford Cardinal,” he said.
Senior guard Justin Bibbins admits he hasn’t even looked at seeding at this point in the season.
“We’re just trying to shore things up on the court and what we can do to win games,” Bibbins said. “I think that’s the most important thing. As far as seedings, I don’t think guys are really paying attention to that right now.”
PREGAME TRIBUTE: Before Thursday’s game, the Utah athletics department will honor the late Jon M. Huntsman Sr. with a video tribute and a moment of silence. Huntsman died Friday.
It also happens to be the annual Cancer Awareness/Huntsman Strong game. The popular teddy bear toss for the Huntsman Cancer Institute is set for halftime.
1998 REUNION: Utah’s 1997-98 team that reached the national championship game will gather for a 20th anniversary reunion on Saturday when the Utes host California. The squad will sign autographs from 6-7 p.m. in the Huntsman Center concourse. A halftime ceremony is also planned.
OLYMPIC DREAM: With the Winter Olympics starting up soon, Krystkowiak was asked what sport he might like to try.
“Curling. I want to get that broom,” he said.
Krystowiak then asked if the brushing is supposed to speed up or slow things down. Regardless, he wants “to be one of those guys.”
Pac-12 basketball remaining games
Team Record Home/Away
Arizona 9-2 4/3
USC 8-3 3/4
Washington 7-3 4/4
Stanford 7-4 2/5
UCLA 7-4 2/5
Oregon 5-5 4/4
Arizona State 5-6 5/2
Colorado 5-6 4/3
UTAH 5-6 5/2
Oregon State 3-7 4/4
California 2-9 3/4
Washington St. 1-9 4/4
Stanford (13-11, 7-4) at Utah (13-9, 5-6)
Thursday, 6 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM