LAS VEGAS, Nev. — The Arizona Wildcats basketball team will attempt on Thursday to win its third game this season over Utah, which did not show any trepidation in the postgame locker room Wednesday following a 67-61 win over Washington.
"I don't have nearly the nervous feeling that I maybe had leading into this game," Utah coach Larry Krystowiak said about facing the Arizona Wildcats after beating the Huskies in the first round of the Pac-12 tournament at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. "Hopefully our guys are feeling the same thing."
The No. 1-seeded Arizona Wildcats are rested, having earned a bye during the first day of the tournament. The eighth-seeded Utes are on a roll entering the quarterfinal game, having won four of their last five games since losing in overtime against Arizona in Salt Lake City on Feb. 19.
Utah (21-10) is confident heading into Thursday's game because it also played the Wildcats close in Tucson for most of the game on Jan. 26 before losing 65-56. The Utes trailed by only four points with almost five minutes remaining in regulation before the Wildcats put the physical, hard-fought game away with a 10-2 run.
A nine-game losing streak to Arizona since Utah upset the defending national champion Wildcats in the 1998 Elite Eight does not faze the Utes.
"What are they, No. 4 in the country?" Utah guard Brandon Taylor asked me about Arizona following the Utes' victory over Washington on Wednesday. "At the end of the end day, we're still in the same conference. We can compete with them. We're going to play hard. We're going to play really hard."
Utah's confidence is at a high level, a result of Krystowiak's ability to motivate his young team. The Utes have only one senior, and that player (forward Renan Lenz) is not in the primary rotation.
Krystowiak's coaching ability is one reason why Arizona should be concerned heading into its game with the Utes on Thursday. Other reasons include Utah learning from its mistakes playing against Arizona twice and the game being at a neutral site without a partisan Arizona crowd.
The following is a slideshow of the five greatest concerns Arizona should have facing Utah.