With the Utes ready to make a trip to California this week for games against UCLA and USC, coach Larry Krystkowiak already has started the drumbeat about the east coast bias in the perception of college basketball’s conferences.
“Certain teams in the east lose a game against a lesser opponent and it’s really not that significant because the league is just so tough,” Krystkowiak said following his team’s loss to Arizona State.
“Here out west, we’ve got certain opponents that are really respectable and who have kicked the snot out of a lot of those teams in the east, but yet when a Colorado beats an Arizona for some reason that diminishes our league because one our leaders in our conference takes a loss against a team that they consider sub-par, which is crazy. If you were out here, you’d know winning in Colorado is no easy task.”
Colorado defeated both Arizona State, which then was ranked fourth in the AP poll, and preseason conference favorite Arizona (12-4, 2-1) in Boulder last week. Arizona State (13-2, 1-2) dropped to No. 11 in the AP poll, while Arizona went from 14th to No. 17.
UCLA (12-4) is not ranked in the top 25 but goes into this week atop the conference standings with a 3-1 record in Pac-12 play.
Whittingham rubbing off
Krystkowiak referenced Utes football coach Kyle Whittingham twice this last week when asked about the injury status of players. Whittingham has been notoriously tight-lipped regarding any in-season injuries.
Freshman forward Donnie Tillman, who played Thursday after missing four games with a foot sprain, sat out Sunday’s loss to Arizona State. Krystkowiak declined to comment on Tillman following Sunday’s game. When asked about Tillman on Tuesday, Krystkowiak went into an “on this date in history” tangent about Christopher Columbus supposedly seeing mermaids that later were determined to have been manatees.
“So sometimes things you see is not reality,” Krystkowiak said with a wry smile after his anecdote. “Did I get sidetracked? What was your question? I just wanted to break out a little history for you.”
When a follow-up question was asked, Krystkowiak pivoted and wished happy birthday to four-star recruit Timmy Allen from Arizona who the Utes signed to a letter of intent in November.
Barefield makes shots
Utes junior guard Sedrick Barefield found a shooting rhythm this past week against the Arizona schools. He scored 23 points against Arizona and 21 against Arizona State. He went 14-of-29 (48 percent) shooting and 11 of 21 (52 percent) on 3-pointers while dishing out seven assists compared to two turnovers.
“I was really happy for him,” Utes senior forward David Collette said. “He called it. I think after the practice after [the Arizona game] he was talking about how he’d been struggling. He said next game is going to be my game where I come out and break out.”
UTAH AT UCLA
When • Thursday, 9 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN2