Red All Over: As we dig in to the Pac-12 for the first time, an ode to Bracketology

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen (1) as the University of Utah hosts Oregon State, NCAA men's basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

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I love Bracketology.

Give me all the mock brackets, all the projections. Stick them all directly in my veins. New bracket projections in early January, just as conference play gets going? Give it to me. Daily updates during Championship Week in March? Give me those, too. The laughably-early brackets that come out the morning after the national championship game? Yes. The ones that come out in May, after NBA Draft decisions are finalized? Those might be my favorite.

The point is, I’m a hoops junkie and this is part of it. In 2015, I took part in a two-day mock-selection exercise at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. The idea was to offer media members a glimpse into how the selection committee goes about its business. Before RPI died and NET took over, that mock selection was invaluable and well-worth my time and expense.

From my perspective, the love for the bracket stuff feels brand new. I’m covering a new program, Utah, and a new conference, Pac-12. I’d be lying if I said paid close attention to the Pac-12 before September, so I’m certainly getting familiar with the league landscape. That includes poring over Pac-12 resumes as the league slate moves forward and the bubble picture begins to clarify with each passing day.

So, here’s to you, Bracketology. Here’s to past adventures, and here’s to new endeavors as we settle into the mountain time zone together.

On to the links.

It’s NFL Draft decision/transfer season, and Utah is not immune. Three days after the Alamo Bowl, junior nickelback Javelin Guidry announced his intention to declare for the NFL Draft. Guidry’s defection means the Utes need to replace their entire secondary.

Utes defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley will have his hands full this spring.

Utah hoops’ opening two-game, three-day Pac-12 stretch began with a solid 81-69 win over Oregon State. Timmy Allen had 25 points and 10 rebounds, outplaying Beavers All-Pac-12 guard Tres Tinkle.

The Utes followed that up with a game effort, but ultimately a loss to No. 4 Oregon. Utah took momentary second-half leads, but couldn’t hang on against a Ducks team looking very much like legitimate Final Four threat.

Utah’s resume is better than most expected with such a young team. The Utes have been in all but two games this season, and the Pac-12, especially the middle and bottom of it, is not super-daunting. I contend this Utah team can be a factor in a conference it was picked to finish ninth in.

Other voices

Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News touches on the need for Utah to utilize its bench more moving forward through Pac-12 play.

The Athletic’s Chris Kamrani on the legacy being left in Salt Lake City by senior defensive end Bradlee Anae.

UCLA football and basketball are both a mess, and its longtime athletic director, Dan Guerrero is on his way out. Ben Bolch, Bruins beat writer for the Los Angeles Times, breaks it all down.

The biggest game in the country Thursday night will be Oregon-Arizona in Tucson. Both programs are among the elite on this side of the country, and both figure to stay that way for a long time. The Arizona Daily Star’s Greg Hansen checks in.

For Bracketology nerds (hand up, if you couldn’t tell above), bracketmatrix.com is an invaluable tool. Dozens of amateur bracketologists, as well as some professional ones, submit their bracket updates, and once the field is officially released, each bracketologist is rated. Fun little tool to kill some time if nothing else. For what it’s worth, Utah is popping up on a small handful of submissions, mostly as a 10 or 11-seed, which indicates the Utes are bubblicious.

Around campus

• The fifth-ranked gymnastics team opened its season with a 196.425-195.35 over No. 12 Kentucky in front of 14,417 at the Huntsman Center. Lya Wodraska with the story. Lya also penned a nice feature on senior Kim Tessen, who has had her career derailed by injuries.

•The Ute gymnasts, now sitting at No. 4 nationally, will compete in the Rio Tinto Best of Utah meet on Saturday at the Maverik Center in West Valley City. Utah, BYU, Southern Utah and Utah State will also be present.

•Redshirt freshman Luke McDivitt was named the Pac-12 Diver of the Month for the month of December.

•The Utah women’s basketball team dropped both games on the Oregon trip last weekend. Both Oregon State and Oregon are ranked in the top 3 nationally, and the schedule gets no easier with 14-0, eighth-ranked UCLA visiting the Huntsman Center on Friday night.

•Women’s Tennis will open its season Saturday morning against Southern Utah on campus at the Eccles Tennis Center.