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Utah’s Pac-12 Tournament seed will be decided Saturday vs. Arizona State, win or lose

Utes will be 7-seed with a win over Sun Devils, or 8-seed with a loss

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes guard Alfonso Plummer (25) takes the ball downcourt, as UCLA Bruins guard Tyger Campbell (10) defends, in PAC-12 basketball action at the Jon M. Huntsman Center, on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.

In previous years, Larry Krystkowiak has voiced his opinion that having a top-5 seed for the Pac-12 Tournament is important.

A top-5 seed gives you a first-round bye, which means instead of winning four games in four days to claim the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, you only have to win three games in three days.

This has been a topic of discussion in years past, with the Utes picking up a top-5 seed and a first-round bye in five consecutive seasons from 2015-19, but it’s of no concern this weekend as the regular season comes to a close with Arizona State visiting the Huntsman Center on Saturday afternoon.

The options for Utah’s Pac-12 Tournament seeding are simple. Saturday’s winner will get the 7-seed and a first-round date with No. 10 seed Washington T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The loser gets the 8-seed, with a game against No. 9 seed Washington State on Wednesday.

“I think we know what the possibilities are for this game, and I think you always have to be careful what you wish for,” Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak said. “It’s just a matter of letting it all play out and right after, we’ll find out after the ballgame where we are. We’ll wait for our final and we’ll start prepping for Wednesday.”

UTAH VS. ARIZONA STATE

At the Huntsman Center

When • Saturday, Noon.

TV • FS1

Pac-12 Tournament seeding aside, Utah and Arizona State playing each for the first time on the second-to-last day of the regular season is a prime example of the weird, winding season this has been.

The first meeting between the two was to take place Dec. 22 in Tempe. The game was postponed on Dec. 20 after a positive test and ensuing contact-tracing protocols within Utah’s program. The Salt Lake Tribune reported on Dec. 22 that the positive test came back as a false positive.

Two subsequent matchups, Feb. 2 in Tempe and Feb. 7 in Salt Lake City were later postponed, which at least partially had to do with the Sun Devils having COVID-19 troubles, certainly more than most of the rest of the Pac-12.

Arizona State (10-12, 7-9 Pac-12) is currently as healthy as it has been all season. The Sun Devils won three straight to close the month of February, but are coming off a 75-61 loss at Colorado on Thursday.

Regardless of seed or matchup, Arizona State at full strength is considered a threat to make noise next week at the Pac-12 Tournament.

“They play a unique style, probably unlike any in terms of pace and looking to play up-tempo and disrupt passing lanes,” Krystkowiak said. “They’re more undersized than most teams in the league, so it’s a unique scout, but I think we’re both at the point of the season where there’s enough information on them.”

Without fans, no Senior Day festivities planned

As this final week of college basketball’s regular season has panned out, some programs have opted for Senior Day festivities. Some have not, and still more have opted for some sort of virtual event without fans being present in arenas.

Utah has one senior, Alfonso Plummer, plus a redshirt junior set to graduate this spring, Brooks King. The Utes are opting to not have Senior Day, but Krystkowiak indicated Friday that they would do something internally.

The Huntsman Center has not been able to host a crowd this season, but recently began allowing a limited number of family guests at the 15,000-seat arena.

“Without the fans, that’s a big part of it,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s being able to pay respect and everybody’s gratitude towards what they’ve done. It’s very unique, but we’ve got some little items for them and we’ll have some video presentations. Families are usually involved, so it doesn’t have some of the same elements that a normal year would have.”

Given the NCAA has frozen the eligibility clock in the face of the pandemic, Plummer has the option to come back for one more season in 2022, but Plummer indicated to The Tribune last month he had not made up his mind.

Krystkowiak on Friday did come out and state Plummer would be back next season, but he did touch on the possibility.

“When the NCAA came out and said you could come back, Fons was excited about that,” Krystkowiak said. “That’s my hope. Beyond that, we’re not talking about next year. We’re talking about trying to beat Arizona State. Those meetings really aren’t relevant right now.”

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