Or in other words, will the real Utah team please stand up? Anything Utah does from here on out, including losing by 50 Saturday night to Wyoming, would not surprise me. I think this team has multiple personalities, which makes Utah the Me, Myself and Irene of the college basketball world. What else would explain this fickle play where the Utes can lose to the likes of Albany and then defeat Air Force in the same season? Not that I'm complaining about last night's win, because defeating the #11 team in the nation warrants praise, but why in the hell can't we see that kind of play every night?
Well anyway, last night's game was fun and one the Utes led the entire night. They shot lights out and even when Air Force quickly dashed the 14 point second half lead, the Utes were composed and made the needed plays to stave off the inevitable Falcon runs. This was an important game and even with all my doubt about Giacoletti, I do hope this turns the season around. I want Utah to win, even if that comes with Giacoletti as head coach. If this signals a rejuvenation of Utah basketball, well then I'm all for it. Sadly, I don't think this will do any of that and in the end we'll be asking ourselves -- as we have with the Washington State and Virginia games -- how in the world Utah pulled that one out.
But I'm not going to dwell on the future and instead enjoy this game. Utah played well on offense and throughout much of the night decent enough on defense. Luke Nevill finally found his game once again and dominated inside, scoring 18 points on a fantastic 8-8 night from the field. He also had 10 boards and 2 blocks, 2 more than Air Force had total. Shaun Green continued his impressive shooting, connecting on 5-7 shots, including 3 of 5 from three point range, for 15 points. But it has been the emergence of Johnnie Bryant over the past few games that's really becoming the story right now. Bryant, with Nevill, led the game with 18 points and connected on 6-6 free throws, most coming in the clutch. I really hope Bryant continues this progress and really has an explosive senior year.
I do have one gripe about last night's game though and that was the fact Giacoletti sat David Foster for most of the night. He only played 3 minutes, yet in those three minutes recorded 2 blocked shots. After his game against the Lobos, why didn't Giacoletti give him an opportunity to keep it going? I really don't want this to hamper Foster's future, especially when he will be leaving on a mission and he very well may not return to the Utes after his mission is over. If the relationship with Utah basketball is strained, which it could be since Giacoletti has burned Foster's redshirt and played him little this season, he may just tell Utah to kiss off and go to another program. I think Foster has talent and would hate to see a falling out between the two.
This win was big, but the final score just proves how good Air Force really is and how Utah still has a lot of room for improvement. Even after shooting 70% from the field and holding Air Force under 50% behind the three point line (which I didn't think was all possible after Utah had given up near career nights to New Mexico, CSU, TCU and UNLV to start conference play), Utah still barely had enough in the tank to win. And you know what? I'm ok with that, because Air Force is probably the most experienced team in the country and Utah is one of the least. The Utes have now beaten two teams that have made the top-25 this season, which shows me Utah is capable of being elite. Whether that will come with a coaching change or just more growth within the program I can't say, but last night's game was a start. Finishing the conference season above .500 would be an accomplishment and show the growth needed to probably allow Giacoletti another year. And that's fine, because if it means Utah succeeds, I don't really care who's coaching them.
But, and I know I said I wouldn't dwell on this, I do not see that happening. Utah will have a few brain farts this season that'll only build our contempt for Giacoletti. Not that I want this to happen, because it'll only mean that more and more losses will pile up.
Congratulations to Utah and Coach Giacoletti for Utah's first victory over a top-25 team in the Huntsman Center since defeating #1 ranked Alabama back in 2002. Here's to a win Saturday night against Wyoming.