Runnin’ Utes Set for NIT

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The University of Utah Men's Basketball Runnin' Utes sophoomore Parker Van Dyke (5) evades the defense to pass the ball in a Pac-12 game vs the California Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center on Thursday, March 2, 2017 (Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

As expected, the University of Utah men’s basketball team failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year. The Runnin’ Utes were, however, invited to the NIT.

On Selection Sunday, the Utes were placed as a No. 3 seed in the NIT, and they will play host to Boise State on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. in the Huntsman Center.

The Utes finished with a 20-11 overall record and they were 11-7 in conference play. Most recently, Utah dropped its lone game in the Pac-12 Tournament to the Cal Bears, 78-75, despite receiving a first round bye in Las Vegas as a No. 4 seed.

Although one of the team’s goals at the beginning of the season was to make it to the NCAA Tournament, junior Kyle Kuzma views the NIT as another opportunity for the team to continue to grow.

Kuzma has been averaging a near double-double for the 2016-17 season with 16.3 points per game and 9.4 rebounds per game. As one of the longer tenured players on this young squad, he understands that any opportunity to keep playing will give the team some necessary experience in preparation for future seasons.

“It is a really good thing for this team to continue the season,” Kuzma said in a press release. “This will be a great experience for us, as we are a young team and have a lot of younger guys that continue to grow. It is exciting that we can keep playing basketball.”

After Thursday’s loss in the Pac-12 Tournament, head coach Larry Krystkowiak knew that a lot of problems stemmed from the team’s poor start, something that has been somewhat of a trend for this year’s squad. He understands that most teams won’t be able to end their season with a win, but it is something the team can still strive for in this postseason.

“There are very few teams that end the season on a high note, so for us to get the fourth seed and play against a really good team and lose, it’s not what we had planned,” Krystkowiak said. “But it’s not unexplainable when you look at how we played. We need to play better to advance.”

Overall, four teams from the Pac-12 were selected to the big dance. Arizona is a No. 2 seed, and the Wildcats will compete in the West Region, Oregon is a No. 3 seed in the Midwest Region, UCLA is the No. 3 seed in the South Region, and USC is a No. 11 seed as the Trojans will be competing in the First Four.

k.brenneisen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@kbrenneisen

Kim Brenneisen
Kim Brenneisen has been a part of The Daily Utah Chronicle for three years as a sports writer, assistant sports editor and sports editor. She is currently the print managing editor, and she has interned at MLB.com through the Sports Journalism Institute.

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