Utah basketball: Utes expect to play in NIT
Las Vegas • Utah's run through the Pac-12 Tournament ended in disappointment, with Arizona defeating the Utes 71-39 at MGM Grand Arena.
As a result, Utah's not going to the NCAA Tournament. Those hopes were dashed. But the Utes will almost certainly garner a berth to the NIT, and for a young program that's not a bad consolation prize.
Most projections have Utah as a high seed for the 32-team tournament, which begins next week. ESPN will hold a selection show on Sunday night. The Utes will most likely host a home game.
"I think the next step for us is an NIT trip," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "I talked to our guys and I'd love, absolutely love, a trip to New York and Madison Square Garden. Obviously, you have to win some games to get there, but I'd love to be in the Final Four there and get a taste of it. That could be a building block for us."
Coming in angry
Arizona players acknowledged having a bit of motivation for Thursday's matchup, following a loss to Oregon that ended its regular-season last Saturday. That, combined with extra rest, combined with the fact that the Wildcats are simply a great team, contributed to Thursday's beatdown.
"We're working towards March Madness," Arizona freshman Aaron Gordon said. "There was a buzz in the air and we definitely wanted to erase the bad taste that we had with the Oregon loss. We wanted to play hard defense and that's what we were able to accomplish."
A few minutes
Utah freshman Parker Van Dyke played for the first time since at UCLA over a month ago. The shooting guard from East High hit a layup in the final minutes. He will finish out his freshman season and then leave the program for two years to go on an LDS Church mission.