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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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Runnin’ Utes lagging behind

Ute Sedrick Barefield passes the ball past Husky David Crips (1) during the Utah Utes 85-61 victory over the Washington Huskies at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

My editor wants this column to be 600 words, but I only need five words to get you up to speed on the University of Utah men’s basketball team: they lost to Oregon State. Oregon. State. Google it if you don’t believe me. I was about to go to my thesaurus and figure out which SAT word to use to describe this loss, but there is one three letter adjective that comes to mind: sad. 

If you don’t know why this is sad, that’s okay. No one in the Pac-12 has any reason to pay attention to Oregon State whatsoever. If you did happen to check the conference standings before Sunday, you would’ve seen the Beavers in 12th place with a conference record of 0-14. This atrocity was not supposed to happen. Even with my dismal predictions from last week, I didn’t see this coming. What’s worse than the humiliation of this loss is that it might have legitimate consequences in the Pac-12 Tournament.

If the Utes had been able to pull this one out, they would be fifth in the conference with some crucial, but winnable games ahead. The loss to Oregon the week prior was almost inevitable with how the Ducks are playing right now, but the Utes had an opportunity to gain back some momentum before playing Colorado, Cal and Stanford to finish out the season. If they had won the Oregon State game and they were able to take at least two of those three games, the Utes would likely be sitting in fourth. That would mean they would get a UCLA team in the second round of the conference tournament that is hot but still has vulnerabilities.

Without this win, the Utes will be lucky to pull out a fifth or sixth place finish in the regular season. If they make it past the first round against USC, Colorado or Stanford (a pretty big “if” at this point), then they would be meeting either Oregon or Arizona in the second round of the conference tournament. Those are two teams that will put a serious beating on the Utah boys. Last week we saw what happened when they went into Oregon’s territory, and I think Arizona is the most complete team in this conference with a No. 1 seed waiting for them at the dance.

Besides the postseason implications of this game, it shows that this team lacks experience and leadership. This had to be the moment the Utes stepped up and showed what they are made of, but there was no urgency or purpose to this team on Sunday. Even with a better field goal percentage and a rebound margin of +11, this team found a way to lose. They shot only 56 percent from the free throw line, and they had a turnover margin of -7, only proving that the Utes just don’t have the mental fortitude to earn a top 68 spot before March rolls around. Those types of errors cost them the game, and there was not a doubt in anyone’s mind who was the more talented team, even after those 40 minutes in Gill Coliseum where the Utes were out-hustled and lackadaisical.

It was Stephen Thompson’s night, I have to give credit where credit is due. He had 31 points on 11-of-17, which is fantastic, but that doesn’t exempt the Utes from criticism. They appear to have already given up on this season, but maybe they can turn it around NIT. I’m sorry to say it, but the Utes don’t deserve a spot in the NCAA Tournament this year, not after their last four conference losses. I’m a Buffalo Bills fan so I’m not at all uncomfortable writing, “There’s always next year.” I have a feeling that’s a phrase we will be saying a lot until the 2017-18 season begins.

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