It’s disappointing. I think our conference is really solid and really good. I’m blown away that USC was not in the tournament. —Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak made it clear he wasn’t too happy with how things shook out for the Pac-12 in the NCAA Tournament. He called it “a perfect storm” for the conference. Only three teams earned berths this year — Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA.
Krystkowiak is mystified that the Pac-12 was supposedly down this season. The conference had a 7-2 record (including Utah’s 77-59 win over Missouri in November) against the SEC that had eight teams invited. The Tigers earned a No. 8 seed with a 20-12 record, including a 10-8 mark in conference play. Krystkowiak looked at their resume and couldn’t see much difference than Utah’s 19-11 (11-7 in the Pac-12) campaign.
The conference simply didn’t get much respect from the tournament selection committee. Krystkowiak wonders if Pac-12 champion Arizona’s 0-3 preseason showing in the Bahamas — losing to North Carolina State, SMU and Purdue — was a factor in the minds of some folks despite the Wildcats turning things around as the season progressed.
“It’s disappointing. I think our conference is really solid and really good,” Krystkowiak said. “I’m blown away that USC was not in the tournament.”
The Trojans didn’t get in despite finishing second in the Pac-12 and reaching the tournament finals. At the same time, Arizona State received a berth despite an 8-10 record in Pac-12 play and a first-round ouster as a No. 9 seed in Las Vegas.
Krystkowiak said that if you beat Kansas and Xavier in the preseason — as the Sun Devils did — and finish ninth in your conference “that’s all it takes.”
Sarcasm aside, Krystkowiak said it’s all spilled milk and the rest of the country doesn’t care about what Pac-12 folks are saying about the lack of respect for the conference.
The real problem, Krystkowiak said, was the lack of quadrant one games because of the Pac-12 supposedly being down.
It’s a situation, he summarized, that needs to be figured out and moved forward.
“It’s a little bit problematic for us. Maybe we go schedule 10 Kansas’s,” Krystkowiak said. “Problem is you can’t schedule Kansas if they don’t want to schedule you.”
MIGHTY MATCHUP: Wednesday’s NIT game in the Huntsman Center pits two of the best smaller players in the nation. Utah’s Justin Bibbins (5-8, 150) is a first-team All-Pac-12 honoree and T.J. Shorts II (5-9, 160) is the Big West Conference Player of the Year.
“I haven’t played a point guard my size this year,” Bibbins said. “So it’ll be a different challenge.”
Bibbins, a graduate transfer from Long Beach State, faced UC Davis several times in the Big West.
“They’ve always been a great program ever since I was there, “ he said. “So we can’t take them lightly.”
Bibbins added that the Utes need to treat them like a Pac-12 team.
Utah senior David Collette also faced the Aggies earlier in his career, during his freshman season at Utah State.
BACK AGAIN: Utah’s seniors are happy to play in the Huntsman Center again. Collette, who injured his ankle early in the Senior Night win over Colorado, is especially grateful.
“It’ll be good to be back in here playing again in front of a good crowd,” he said.
WAITING GAME: The due date for Collette and wife McElle’s first baby is this Saturday. McElle tried to trick her husband on Tuesday by sending him a text that her water broke.
David Collette expects it to really happen in a week or so.
“Family first,” he said when asked about a possible conflict with basketball.
EXTRA STUFF: Utah is 2-0 against UC Davis, winning both games in Salt Lake City. The Utes prevailed 106-72 in 1990 and 94-60 in 2013. Utah has made a school-record 274 shots from 3-point range this season. This is Utah’s 44th postseason appearance.
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