LAS VEGAS — Considering the relative parity of the regular season, this year’s Pac-12 Tournament appears to be a wide-open affair.
“I think it’s safe to say that,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.
Most of the seeding wasn’t settled until last Saturday and late in February last-place California upset conference-leading Washington.
The Utes, who were projected to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason media poll, wound up as the No. 3 seed. They’ll square off against Oregon in the Pac-12 quarterfinals on Thursday (9:30 p.m., ESPN).
“It’s really wide open. Definitely anyone can win it,” said Utah sophomore Donnie Tillman. “And of course I’m biased. I want us to win it.”
The Utes have never won the Pac-12 tourney since joining the conference in 2011-12. They reached the championship game in 2016 and made it to the semifinals in 2013 and 2015. Other appearances ended with losses in the quarterfinals (2014, 2017 and 2018) as well as one first-round ouster (2012).
Krystkowiak isn’t much for discussing tournament history.
“Talk is cheap this point of the season,” he said. “You’ve got to go lay it on the line.”
The Utes insist they’re prepared to do so. Freshman forward Timmy Allen explained that it's what they’ve geared up for all season. Even so, it promises to be a challenge.
“I feel like we can beat anybody and I think we can lose to anybody also,” Allen said. “So we’re just going in with the mindset of preparing to play our best and then go out there and lay it on the line.”
Allen added that the Utes prepared for both Oregon and Washington State. In the end, though, they'll face the Ducks — 84-51 winners over the Cougars late Wednesday.
“Whoever we get matched up with, we feel we’re going to be ready for,” Allen said before the first-round match-up.
Utah lost to Oregon 78-72 in its only meeting with the Ducks, Jan. 31 in the Huntsman Center.
Senior Sedrick Barefield is focused on the present as opposed to the past with the next contest, adding that losing Vegas openers the past two seasons hasn’t sat well with the program.
“I think we’re due as a team,” he said. “But at the same time, we’re going to get what we earn and earn what we get. So we’ve just got to go out there and give it all we’ve got.”
Barefield is convinced it’ll come down to which team wants it the most.8 comments on this story
“We’re going to be facing an opponent who has played a game already,” he said. “It’s going to be whoever is the most locked in, whoever’s taking care of their bodies and just giving it all they‘ve got each game they step on the court.”
EXTRA STUFF: Hall of Famer Julius Erving had a front-row seat for Wednesday’s first-round games at T-Mobile Arena . . . Utah is 6-7 all-time in Pac-12 Tournament play . . . The Utes have never faced Arizona State, Oregon State, UCLA or Washington State in the conference tourney.
Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals
No. 3 Utah (17-13) vs. No. 6 Oregon (20-12)
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Thursday, 9:30 p.m. (MT)
Radio: ESPN 700AM