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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Miller: Utes need to learn to thrive in “Goliath” role

(Ryan Kang/Emerald)
(Ryan Kang/Emerald)

When major upsets happen, the old Bible tale David versus Goliath is often referenced. Now, while Oregon certainly isn’t a “David” of the college basketball world, its 69-58 win over Utah on Sunday should act as a warning sign for the Utes. Because Utah might just be vulnerable.


Not one player on Utah’s squad has felt the feeling of an NCAA Tournament contest. If the players want to know what might be waiting for them, they should remember how the Ducks played.

Oregon is a less-talented team that played desperate. The Ducks needed a marquee win to add to their resume and they wanted to send their seniors off right — they played accordingly.

Oregon attacked from the very beginning, playing free and loose, acting like it had nothing to lose. And really the Ducks didn’t. Before Sunday, they hadn’t beat a team ranked in the RPI top 40, a loss to Utah wouldn’t have hurt their resume in the slightest, but a win? Well, Oregon may just be dancing now.

After the final whistle, Duck guard Joseph Young ran onto the court, joining the Oregon student section in a sea of celebration — that’s the same excitement you see after a tournament win.


The Utes better get used to facing that type of effort, because the real games are looming.

Utah may be considered one of the nation’s top teams, but it is still vastly inexperienced. One NIT game contest is all any of these Utes have on their postseason resume, and that one didn’t end too well.

The Utes may have the ranking of a national power, but might not have the confidence, or the swagger of one. At the very least, they don’t carry the intimidation factor.

Arizona puts fear into the hearts of opponents, while Utah has shown it offers up a chance to get a quality win. Away from the Huntsman Center, the Utes haven’t looked all that scary, in fact they have looked downright beatable.

Utah has been able to at least justify its losses this season. San Diego State was on the road to a Top-20 team, was played on a weird time of day and it was early in the season. Kansas was at a neutral sight, that was anything but neutral, and it was, after all, against Kansas. Arizona was in Tucson, where visiting teams just don’t win. And against UCLA the team was said to be sick.

All justified, no harm done.

There aren’t many excuses to be made on Sunday, Utah was beat by a team that it probably should have beat. The Ducks won because they wanted it more and played with a sense of urgency that was lacking from the Utes. That same sense of urgency will greet Utah the rest of the way.

The Pac-12 Tournament is less than three weeks away and Utah will be favored in every game, save Arizona. And once the NCAA Tournament begins the Utes will be favored until at least the Sweet 16. They’ll have to play the Goliath role and teams will be looking to take down the giant.

Oregon did it on Sunday, will the Utes let it happen again?

Does Utah rely too much on the three-point shot? Can the Utes play from behind? Can they win a close game away from their fans in Salt Lake?

These questions won’t be answered until the tournaments begin, the best teams have an extra gear when elimination is at stake, will the Utes show theirs?

If not, the David’s of the world will be ready, slingshots loaded.

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