Tonight's game against the 9th ranked Oregon Ducks is Utah's chance to make a statement in Pac-12 play.
As improved as Utah has looked this season, even their win over BYU is now suspect after the Cougars have opened up their conference season with two disappointing losses to Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine. So, they're still looking for that one defining victory to propel the team to bigger success. More importantly, Larry Krystkowiak is looking for a win that puts the rest of the conference on notice - basically, a game that shows the conference Utah has arrived and can't be overlooked anymore.
The Utes came close to doing that last season - nearly upsetting Arizona on the road and even beating the Ducks in Salt Lake to end the regular season - but nothing compares to what they're going to experience Thursday night. Sure, there was the close loss at home to ninth-ranked Arizona, but this feels different. It feels different because this year's team looks better than last year's - the same team that was in a great deal of losses.
So, that makes tonight's game arguably the biggest conference game yet for the Utes. A victory would mean so much - especially since it would give Utah a 1-0 Pac-12 start.
It would also mean that maybe, hopefully, the program is back.
Words I think we've spent the last few years hoping to say, and, for one reason or another, just haven't had that opportunity.
Oregon is a tough team that is capable of running the Utes out of their gym. Even still, I believe Utah is capable of pulling off the upset and, with a frenzied crowd behind 'em, I wouldn't be surprised if they walked off the court tonight tied for first in the Pac-12.