Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Runnin' Utes finish their final road trip losers of three.
I wanted one win on this three-game road trip and I got three lopsided losses instead. In fact, this trip seemed to get progressively worse for the Utes the longer it went - right down to an injury from Dakarai Tucker, who didn't play after going down against Cal. Indications suggest it could be his ACL.
But this game, against a Stanford team Utah matched up far better against last year, epitomized everything about the 2013 Utes. There were some signs of progress, but overall, a lot of regression and, when it's all said and done, a far less satisfactory result. In a game where the Utes clawed their way back to within four in the second half, the final score doesn't indicate anything remotely close to competitive - they lost 84-66.
But the game was competitive ... at times ... and maybe that's the good we can take away from this one. It's probably the only good thing about today, all things considered. It was an ugly performance with long droughts without scoring (sound familiar) and a defense that, surprisingly, struggled defending for full stretches of the game (you ain't gonna win many games when giving up 84 points).
Now Utah limps home losers of four-straight and a road conference record that is only improved because of what apparently was a fluke win at Washington. Since that victory over the Huskies, the Utes have been outscored 72 to 58 on the road ... numbers that almost entirely paint the picture of a team that isn't anywhere near up to the level needed to compete in this conference.
So, as the season comes to an end, Utah now has two home games and the conference tournament to look forward to. The first happens Thursday against the Beavers - a team the Utes are 0-3 against over the last two seasons - and then Oregon, a team that sits atop the Pac-12 and is still in very serious battle for the conference regular season title. If it wasn't for Washington State, Utah would almost certainly be doomed to last place. But the Cougars appear to want to occupy that spot for the remainder of the season, so, more power to 'em.
At the end of the day, it might be too much hoping for four conference wins, which would break last year's total ... even though this year's team is more improved. It goes to show how difficult it is to truly improve when the entire conference is vastly better than they were last year. That leads to one final thought from myself - does it really matter if we improve if that improvement ultimately keeps us stagnant among our conference rivals?