Brunner: Runnin’ Utes don’t have enough clutch

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

Not a chance in hell.

Don’t get me wrong — I’d love to see Jim Boylen cap his inaugural season at the U with a run at the MWC Championship and maybe even a berth into the NCAA Championship, but it’s just not going to happen.

There are endless numbers of reasons, but three of them stick out in my mind above the rest.

Reason No. 1: New Mexico. Reason No. 2: UNLV. Reason No. 3: BYU.

Those are the teams, in order, that Utah will likely have to go through to get to the championship. I couldn’t draw up a tougher route if I tried. The Utes are 1-5 against those teams this season, and their sole win was against the Rebels in the Huntsman Center.

Honestly, it’ll be a surprise to me if they even get out of the first round. New Mexico is playing the best ball in the conference right now. Led by co-MWC Player of the Year frontrunner J.R. Giddens, the Lobos are fresh off an upset win over UNLV and trying to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. To earn that bid, the Lobos will need to make some noise in the conference tournament. That doesn’t bode well for the Utes.

Even if they can somehow find a way to stop Giddens and sneak away with a win, the Utes will be rewarded with a second-round matchup against UNLV on its home court. Boylen’s crew proved they can play with Wink Adams and Co. in Las Vegas last week, but in the end still lost 70-63.

And if they get past Vegas, Utah will probably get to play its best friends — and regular season MWC champions — from Provo in the championship. The Utes have been close to beating the Cougars both times they’ve played, but every time they got close to the upset, some asshat named Lee Cummard or Jonathan Tavernari went off for eight 3-pointers.

The Utes will compete with the Lobos. I have no doubt about that. But ultimately, it will come down to the final minute of the game, and a Ute will commit a crucial error to lose it. The Utes just aren’t clutch. Utah fans have seen their team lose close games time and time again this season. In total, the Utes have lost 10 games by eight points or fewer. The majority of those losses were because of a critical turnover or missed shot in the final minute of the game.

As you can tell, I’m already bracing myself for the worst. I know the Utes will be really good a few years down the line when they get fully integrated into Boylen’s system and he can get some of his own players in here. But for now, I just don’t see it happening.

Hopefully, I’m wrong. Hopefully, Jim Boylen and the rest of the Utes take it as an insult that their own school paper isn’t giving them a chance and decide to use it as motivation to pound some Lobo ass. And hopefully, Christopher Kamrani never references Peter Pan in a sports column ever, ever again.

You just got docked 10 man points for that, Kamrani.

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