Another chance to play together – that’s how the Runnin’ Utes are viewing their postseason.
The University of Utah men’s basketball team ultimately fell shy of its goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament, but the team has another shot to redeem itself in NIT as it hosts Boise State in the first round on Tuesday night.
There could be a lack of motivation with the team missing out in the big dance; often times home teams end up losing in the first round of the NIT, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak does not think that will be the case. He saw disappointment written across his players’ faces following their most recent loss to Cal in the Pac-12 Tournament and he thinks his players don’t want to experience that sort of feeling again.
“There’s a big part of us that wants to get that taste out of our mouth and try to prove that we can play better basketball,” Krystkowiak said.
The team is also priding itself on the fact that it finished in the top 100 in the nation. Since the NCAA Tournament has 68 spots and the NIT has a field of 32 teams, the Utes fall into that top 100 category and considering the highs and lows of this season, Krystkowiak would consider that an accomplishment. Most importantly, he wants his team to make the most out of this additional opportunity.
“Obviously we’d love to be in the NCAA Tournament, we’re not, and there are a number of things that can happen,” Krystkowiak said. “You’re either disappointed and you’re not ready to continue your season. Things had to line up pretty special for us to be in the NCAA Tournament, [but] we’re going to do more of what we [did] all year — you fight like heck, get prepared.”
The Utes didn’t have much time to prepare for the Broncos ahead of the game, but the Broncos are in the same position considering both squads found out their opponents at the same time. The last time Boise State visited Salt Lake City to take on Utah was in 2012 and the Utes came out on top with a 76-55 win.
The final rounds of the NIT are set at Madison Square Garden and that’s where the Utes are hoping to end their season, but as Krystkowiak has mentioned before, there are only a small number of teams that get to end their season on a high note.
“The goal is to try and get to New York City for that final four — that would be a heck of an accomplishment for our team,” Krystkowiak said. “We’re not downplaying it, and we’re giving it everything we have.”
Game time is set for 8 p.m. MT in the Huntsman Center. The second round of the NIT will be held March 17-20 and the winner of the Utah/Boise State game will move on to face the winner of the Illinois/Valparaiso game.