Runnin’ Utes Go One-and-Done in Pac-12 Tournament, Likely Ending Tumultuous Season


Xiangyao Tang

Utah guard Marco Anthony (10) in the game versus Washington State Cougars at Jon. M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Jan. 19 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Ethan Pearce, Sports Editor


The University of Utah men’s basketball team bowed out early in the Pac-12 Tournament at the hands of the Stanford Cardinal, potentially ending what has been an up-and-down season for the Utes. They still have a shot to get into the NIT, but what was a near surety just a few weeks ago is now up in the air thanks to a six-game losing streak to close Utah’s season. If they’re not selected, the offseason begins.

It was not a pretty finish to the year, as the Utes went down to the Cardinal early and didn’t show much fight in attempting to come back. They stayed at a deficit of about eight to 10 points for the majority of the second half and could not break back into the game. 

Utah fell like a tree in the forest with no one around to hear, as their run in Las Vegas concluded with a whimper in a 73-62 loss. The offense wasn’t pretty, particularly in the first half, and two Utes starters were held scoreless. Branden Carlson dropped 27, but he cannot do it all himself. The next closest Ute was Gabe Madsen with 13.

In the end, the script for this game was all too familiar for Ute fans who have been watching the team for the last few weeks. They were outplayed start to finish and looked like they were ready for the offseason. The end of the game was neither shocking nor devastating, because this is pretty much what was expected of them at this point in their season. 

Utah finishes with a 10-11 record in conference play, a second straight losing season, but still an improvement over where they were projected to be. A strong defensive effort carried them for much of the year, but that intensity simply wasn’t present during this closing losing skid. 

Marco Anthony has been banged up and held out of practices recently, Madsen and Rollie Worster missed multiple games with injury and Carlson had been inefficient in the few games prior to tonight. The Utes’ depth, which was a question months ago, was even further tested in these recent matchups and they clearly ran out of gas. 

Outside of an NIT bid, Anthony is the lone Ute who definitively just played his last game. Carlson is the biggest question mark as the offensive engine and defensive anchor of this team. They cannot replace his production with anyone currently on the roster, as has been evidenced during his absences at various points throughout the last two seasons. Carlson has one year of eligibility left, but if he doesn’t take it, Craig Smith simply has to hit the transfer portal aggressively for veteran scoring help. He should probably be doing that anyway.

Utah has been winning games in the Pac-12 with talent that is not up to par with most Power Five residents. They have some good players on the team, but they simply have to get more athletic, recruit a deeper bench and find consistent scoring and shooting help outside of their only offensive threats in Carlson and Madsen. Keba Keita and Wilguens Jr. Exacte are a part of that as they move from true freshmen into their sophomore seasons. 

Frankly, this is a seismic offseason for Smith. Entering his third year as Utah’s head man, fans are now starting to expect results. The first two years, losing can be expected. The third year is when folks start to get restless, fair or not. The vision for what he is building and where he wants to take this program is there. They performed above expectations this year. It’s time to go out there and make some hay in the transfer portal, hit the recruiting trails, utilize their roster space more effectively and start to compete in an, honestly speaking, very weak Pac-12.


[email protected]