There probably isn't a worse match-up in this year's tournament than the California Golden Bears. That doesn't bode well for Utah, who looks to extend their season tonight in the second-round of the Pac-12 tournament.
Still, there are at least a couple things working in their favor and hopefully, though maybe unlikely, they come together to create the perfect scenario.
For one, Utah is the hot team in the conference right now. As hard as it is to believe, the Utes' three-straight wins is the longest streak in the conference currently and does give Utah some strong momentum as they prepare for potentially the hardest game of the season. When a team gets hot, even if they're as erratic as the Utes have been at times this season, it could lead to some good things.
It's also a challenge for a team to win three in a row over another in the same season. It's happened, and it probably will happen tonight, but it's not an easy task - especially when that team is hot. So, while Utah has lost 62-57 and 64-46 to the Golden Bears already this season, maybe tonight is the night that changes.
They say anything is possible in March, right?
Regardless of the outcome tonight, the fact we're talking about this possibility is good. Competitive basketball can be very fun, as we're finding out right now, and I'm ecstatic about the possibility of this becoming the new normal around these parts. I miss good basketball. I miss the butterflies of March Madness and the conference tournament surprises - Keith Van Horn's back-to-back buzzer beaters in '97, going undefeated in WAC play, including beating the Lobos in the '99 WAC tournament; Nick Jacobson's three-pointer with seconds left to lift Utah over UNLV in the '04 Mountain West Tournament and winning the entire thing in 2009, Jim Boylen's second season.
Those are good memories and, until last night, we had absolutely zero since that '09 season. That's how long it had been since the Utes went without a conference tournament win - losing to UNLV, SDSU and Colorado - in games that were rarely competitive.
So, while I do hope this season continues, the mere fact we're here in the second round of the conference tournament is good enough for me.
Fun fact: Utah is the first 10th seed to advance to the second round in the Pac-12 Tournament since USC did it in 1989. Of course, from 1991-2002, the league didn't even have a tournament and it wasn't until 2006 the league allowed every team to play in the tournament, as opposed to the top-eight like it had been before. Still, fairly impressive considering that's a stretch of seven seasons.
Let's be the first 10 seed to win the whole damn thing!