If there’s a best time for a basketball team to be clicking, it’s March.
The University of Utah men’s basketball team easily handled the Cal Bears on Thursday night in the Huntsman Center after handing the visiting team a 30 point loss, 74-44. Arguably, Cal had a bit more at stake as it is a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, and a blowout loss like that only goes against the Bears’ overall resume. Utah was playing for a fighting chance at the No. 4 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament, and a chance is what they will have this Saturday.
As the Stanford Cardinal takes its visit to Salt Lake City, senior guard Lorenzo Bonam will be honored before the game as a part of Senior Day, but there’s more on the line than just a nice sendoff victory. That No. 4 seed could very well be up for grabs by the time the game gets underway if Cal drops its matchup with the Colorado Buffaloes.
Cal is taking on CU at 12 p.m. on Saturday, just two hours before tipoff in the Huntsman Center, so by the time things get rolling the Utes could very well know their fate. If Cal wins, the Utes aren’t really playing for anything, but if Cal loses, then Utah seemingly has everything on the line. Before the season started, head coach Larry Krystkowiak and the Utes came up with a list of goals they wanted to accomplish, and one of those goals was securing a top four spot in Las Vegas.
The old saying “we control our own destiny” isn’t entirely applicable since the Utes’ shot is dependent on whether or not Cal wins, but it can come into play if Colorado does Utah a favor.
“This is a good time of year to be charged up,” Krystkowiak said. “Until somebody tells me that we can’t be a fourth seed, that’s always [going to be] a goal.”
Although Utah fans may be paying closer attention to the final score of the Cal and CU game than the team itself, forward Kyle Kuzma calls Saturday’s matchup a “must-win” regardless of any outcome.
“We got to handle our business,” Kuzma said. “I’ve been saying this for weeks, and we got to focus on winning. We got to do what we got to do, and things can fall our way hopefully.”
That’s easier said than done.
The first time the Utes faced off with the Cardinal in Palo Alto, they were coming off of a disheartening double-overtime loss to Cal. Krystkowiak never wants to make excuses for a loss, but a hangover effect could have been in play as Utah took an 81-75 loss. At the same time though, Krystkowiak thinks the Utes are coming off of their best game this season, and maybe a hangover effect from their most recent performance wouldn’t be so bad.
“We’ve always tried to take great pride in playing good basketball at the right time of the year,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ve learned a lot of lessons, had different breakdowns, a variety of different things that have kept us from winning some important games, but I truly sense things are starting to get a bit clearer.”
Devon Daniels has not played in the past two games after being indefinitely suspended, but he was in attendance for the Utes’ latest win.
Game time is set for 2 p.m.