Las Vegas • Fox Sports 1 analyst Steve Lavin has lived life as a coach of a bubble team from a major conference. Lavin, part of the broadcast team calling the Utes’ opening game of the Pac-12 Tournament against Oregon on Thursday night, has been in a situation similar to the one the Utes walked into this week.
Lavin, the former UCLA and St. John’s coach, led a St. John’s team to a 20-win season and a third-place finish in the Big East in the 2013-14 season. That team went into its conference tournament knowing it needed to make a run in order to secure an NCAA Tournament berth. However, that group lost its opening game to Providence, which went on to earn the tournament bid, and had to settle for an NIT appearance.
“The best thing you can do as a coach is focus on the task at hand,” Lavin said. “With the media today, the bombardment of the electronic age, social media, all these different bracketologists, kids are aware of first four in, last four in, first four out. You don’t need to amplify that. As a coach, if anything you’ve got to take those energies and lock in on our first possession and eight five-minute mini battles and not get carried away.
“If you start thinking too much about that, that could create pressure, or you’re not focused to the attention to detail.”
The Utes entered the tournament as the third seed after winning six of seven games to end the regular season. However, they’re widely considered a bubble team on the fringe of making the NCAA Tournament, yet not assured a berth.
“Their second half was as impressive as any team in the league,” Lavin said, lauding the work of Utes coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff. “Also, blending talent and transfers – helping them acclimate to the Utes style of play and system – is a challenge. They’ve found a way to get their team to hit on all cylinders at the right time of the year, and that’s what good coaching is.”
College hoops committee
Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott addressed questions from reporters during his 30-minute news conference, including queries regarding the state of men’s college basketball and the ongoing FBI investigation into recruiting and bribery involving college coaches, AAU coaches, agents and sneaker company representatives.
Just before the start of the season, the Pac-12 formed a task force to examine the state of college basketball. The members included Utah’s director of athletics Chris Hill. Scott said he would not go into the findings or recommendations of the task force, specifically, because he had not yet presented them to the conference’s board of directors.
Talking about the findings in broad strokes, he said they’d touch upon the NBA’s one-and-done rule, reform of recruiting regulations, liberalizing rules regarding interaction with agents, and NCAA enforcement.
What happens in Vegas
Scott also announced the Pac-12 extended its agreement to hold the men’s conference tournament in Las Vegas through 2020, and the conference’s women’s tournament will move to Las Vegas starting in 2019.
The women’s tournament will take place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in 2019 and in the Mandalay Bay Events Center in 2020. In both cases, the women’s tournament will be played the week prior to the men’s tournament.