I think we’ve got a strong league, contrary to what people around the country will say. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — Speculation is running rampant as March Madness approaches. It happens every year. However, this time around many prognosticators aren’t giving the Pac-12 a lot of love. Some are predicting just three bids for the conference.
Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak disagrees with such an assessment.
“I think we’ve got a strong league, contrary to what people around the country will say,” he said.
Krystkowiak is confused that quality non-conference wins by teams like Arizona State and UCLA, which strengthens the league, are being discounted.
“Hopefully we get the proper recognition when the time comes,” Krystkowiak said of NCAA Tournament berths.
At 18-10 overall and 10-7 in Pac-12 play, Utah enters Saturday’s season final against Colorado on a bubble of sorts. Major bracketology experts (CBS.com and ESPN.com) have the Utes just on the outside looking in.
Krystkowiak said he’s going to size up the bubble once his team’s body of work is complete. That’s when he’ll give his best sales pitch as to whether or not the Utes belong and deserve a bid.
“A lot of that stuff is out of our control. We’re just going to focus on Colorado. A lot of different things have to fall in place. Obviously the bubble becomes larger if there’s not as many upsets in conference tournaments and different things,” Krystkowiak continued. “ I feel like we’re going to catch a break. The best way to focus on that is go try to make our own breaks, though — see what we can do and do some damage and see what happens in Vegas. I’m convinced we can beat anybody in our league.”
Krystkowiak added that he sees no reason why the Utes can’t be the team to win three in a row at the tournament,
SENIOR SENDOFF: The Utes will say goodbye to five players prior to Saturday’s game against Colorado. The departing seniors include Gabe Bealer, Justin Bibbins, David Collette and Tyler Rawson. Redshirt junior Jake Connor is also in the mix.
“I’m kind of weighing my options right now. I’m graduating in May. I’m going to get my degree from here,” Connor said. “I’m pretty optimistic about possibly going to play somewhere else.”
Connor, who has seen limited action with the Utes, is hopeful to find a program that he can help win some games. However, he hasn’t closed the door on returning to Utah. It may be a last-minute decision as the son of associate head coach Tommy Connor seeks the right fit.
“Whatever Jake decides to do I’m 100 percent behind it,” Krystkowiak said. “I think what we want to make sure of is that we recognize him on Saturday as a senior from an academic point of view, having his degree, and (he’s) done a heck of a lot for our program.”
THUMBS DOWN: Krystkowiak doesn’t think a lot of the Oscar-nominated film “The Post.” He didn’t like it.
“I took about 15 30-second naps during the movie — absolute dud,” Krystkowiak said. “Sorry.”
As for other “Best Picture” nominees, Krystkowiak said that he couldn’t finish watching “Dunkirk” on an airplane because of technical difficulties. He plans to see “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” this weekend.
Krystkowiak was then asked about his favorite sports movies. He reeled off “Caddyshack” and “Brian’s Song,” noting that “Hoosiers” is right up there, too.
NO COMMENT: Krystkowiak opted not to comment on a question about the situation at Arizona and if it took a shine off this time of year.
“I’m going to go Fifth Amendment on that one,” he said. “Is that what you say when you don’t want to answer?
BAREFIELD UPDATE: Junior guard Sedrick Barefield, who did not play against UCLA and USC last week and was limited to just four minutes of play at Washington State on Feb. 17 because of a rib-cage injury, might be closing in on a return.
“Maybe we caught a break not having a double (game) weekend. Our team is pretty beat up right now,” Krystkowiak said. “Sedrick’s injury is not one that’s easily defined. It’s kind of one of those gray area between-the-ribs, you know, sensitive things.”
“I do not know,” Krystkowiak said.
Colorado (16-13, 8-9) at Utah (18-10, 10-7)
Saturday, 5 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM