The Utah "Running Utes" won the Mountain West Conference Tournament on Saturday. On Sunday, they were counted out with just one pick.
The No. 5-seeded Utes will face the No. 12 Arizona Wildcats in the first round of the Tournament. Utah has been a hot and cold team this year, beating LSU, BYU, and Gonzaga.
At the same time, the Utes lost to BYU, Cal, and Oklahoma. The biggest problem is that the Utes lost games away from home when they needed to win.
Arizona split their Mountain West opponents, while Utah also split their games in the Pac-10.
The Utes should have locked up the Mountain West Conference two weeks ago against BYU. Worse yet, the team has not beaten any big schools away from home. So, they have their work cut out for them.
Realistically, if the Utes defeat Arizona, they should have a chance to play Louisville, as neither Wake Forest nor Cleveland State are world-beaters.
The Utes need to get more offensive production out of their big guys.
While the Utes were not as bad as some members of the Big Ten in scoring, they need Luke Nevill, their big center, and forward Shaun Green to put up points. Nevill has averaged 16 points a game this season.
Arizona has three players averaging over 15 points: Jordan Hill (18.5), Chase Budinger (17.9), and Nic Wise (15.1). Hill especially is an important player to manage, as he scored over 20 points in their final four games.
Budinger also can score some big numbers. When he has been hot, he has put up nearly 30 points several times this season.
While defense wins championships, offense can lose you games early on. The Utes can “upset” the Wildcats, but they need their offense to get on Arizona early and often and put them on the back foot so they can build from there.
The brackets will be exciting once again, and the Utes might just surprise a few teams.