Beginning the second leg of conference play, the Utes will look to continue their drive for the conference championship this afternoon with a trip to Laramie. There they will take on the 14-8 (3-5) Wyoming Cowboys, who have yet to lose at home this season.
The Pokes, who looked like they had turned a corner since losing to the Utes 91-67 in January, have lost two straight by a combined score of 170-117. Those setbacks took the Cowboys out of the top-half of the league and now they're fighting to stay out of the cellar. Their 3-5 conference record is 3rd worst, but that shouldn't lull Utah into thinking this will be an easy game. The Utes' last trip to Laramie didn't go very well, as they lost a close one to an even worse Wyoming squad. Add the fact the Cowboys are probably still smarting over the 24-point drubbing by Utah last month, and this has the makings for a big trap game.
For the Utes, who can't afford to lose a road game they should win, this is an important contest and one that will most likely either keep them in the conference championship hunt, or elimate them. As the season winds down and with San Diego State so far in the driver's seat, each game becomes more and more important. Of course, those same Aztecs also fell to the Cowboys, so it goes to show just how good Wyoming can play at home.
I expect a tough, close game like the one we saw Wednesday against TCU. I also expect a similar result, which means a Utah victory. It won't be as easy as their game here in Salt Lake, but there really is no excuse for losing to the free falling Cowboys. So hopefully Utah wins and the Utes leave the tundra with a 7-2 conference record, which would not only keep tournament hopes alive, but match last year's conference win total.