I don't think there is one program out there that has had more heart break this year than Utah. So many close losses have pushed Utah to one of their worst starts in modern history. What's worse is that every time the Utes look as if they're going to get over the hill and win a close game, they find a way to lose.
Now while Tuesday's Air Force game was close, the Utes never trailed and in the final minutes Air Force couldn't climb to within one score of Utah. That means Utah has yet to win a really tight game and though the Air Force game might mean things could be changing, I think the big test for Utah will come when they win a game on a final bucket, or stop the opposing team from scoring as time expires. I have no doubt that when Utah is faced with a close game, the players tighten up and have a difficult time shaking the reality of their problems. If they're not confident in winning close games, there is a very good chance that they in fact will lose. And that's what bugs me the most, since Utah is only a few plays away from not only being a winning team, but being atop the Mountain West Conference, instead of at the bottom.
Here's a look at Utah's close games and how Utah was unable to capitalize and win.
|Opponent||Score||How it went down|
|Southern Utah||73-76||Utah failed to make the shots needed and couldn't stop Southern Utah down the stretch.|
|Colorado||59-60||Utah turned the ball over twice in the final minute and Lawrence Borha fouled Jermyl Jackson-Wilson with only 2.1 seconds left on the clock. The one made free throw proves to be the difference as Colorado wins by only one point.|
|Utah State||57-60||Utah held a 3 point lead with less than a minute left in the game. The Utes wouldn't score the remainder of the game. With 1.9 seconds left in the game and the game tied Chaz Spicer hits a three pointer to win the game for Utah State.|
|Rhode Island||84-85||Utah forces overtime on a desperate three point shot by Shaun Green. However two free throws with 19 seconds left in the game gives Rhode Island the lead and Utah was unable to score a basket and they lose by one.|
|Albany||58-59||Luke Nevill turned the ball over with less than 10 seconds left in the game and failed to get a rebound after Albany missed their first free throw. With Albany up one, Utah never got a shot off as they had their pass intercepted as time expired.|
|UNLV||94-97||Utah forced double OT but failed to win the game in regulation when Weigh missed one of three free throws. Though the game went into double OT, Shaun Green's final possible game-tying three was off as time expires.|
|TCU||68-71||Utah could never get over TCU's three point shooting. Ricky Johns made a free throw with 1.2 seconds remaining and intentionally missed his second attempt in hopes of kicking it out for the game-tying three pointer, however time expired and the Utes lost.|
|New Mexico||82-86||Utah had a chance to win this game in regulation, but couldn't get a good shot off. The game would go into overtime, where Utah would lose.|
Utah has lost 8 games by a combined 19 points. That's ridiculously close and Utah is only a few stops and made shots away from being 14-4 instead of 6-12. With a victory over #11th Air Force, wins over Washington State and Virginia, it's very good possibility Utah could be ranked, or just outside of the top-25 with a record like that. I hate playing what ifs, but damn this hurts to think about.
It has to be said though, I really think Utah is the best 6-win team in the nation and probably far better than their record indicates. Here's hoping they start playing like it soon enough.