Utah basketball has been all over the map the past two and a half years and tonight could go along way toward providing some consistency. The Utes host Utah State at 8:00 up on the Hill and a victory could start the long road to recovery for the post-Giacoletti era Utes.
While in years past USU would provide the Utes a formable foe and a decent measuring stick, that doesn't seem to be the case this year. Uncharacteristically of a Stew Morrill team, Utah State has struggled this year. They're currently 5-4 on the season and 1-4 on the road. That lone victory came against a struggling Iowa team, while the four losses were to Weber State, UC Irvine -- two teams Utah beat -- along with Cal Poly and Vanderbilt.
Last year the Utes nearly beat the Aggies in Logan, but lost 60-57 on a last second three pointer by Chaz Spicer. The game pretty much signified Utah's final two years under Giacoletti -- a rollercoaster ride that ultimately ended with headache inducing play. New head coach Jim Boylen looks to change that and while there is still much work to be done, it does appear Utah is heading in the right direction. A victory over Utah State will most likely signify that.
The Utes are currently 4-2 on the season and both losses were essentially the complete opposite of the other. In loss number one, against Washington, the Utes played the Huskies down to the wire and even led in the final minutes before succumbing to them on the road. In their other loss the Utes were dominated by Santa Clara at home, hopefully one of only a few embarrassing losses of the Jim Boylen era. The loss, in fact, brought back the nightmares that plagued Utah fans throughout Ray Giacoletti's tenure, but the play over the past two games has been good enough to calm my fears, at least.
At Weber State, the Utes fell down early, fought back and rolled in the second half. The same happened Saturday against Irvine, as Utah again stumbled and nearly lost control of the game before mounting another rally and dominating down the stretch. Against Utah State, however, the Utes probably don't want to get down early. The Aggies, despite some of their losses, have shown some signs of success and they did beat Santa Clara, something Utah failed to do. This is a big game and if Utah wins, I will feel really good about the direction this season is heading in. A loss won't be the end of the world, but it could severely set the Boylen rebuilding project back a bit.