As the season comes to a close, these are the games that provide hope for next year. It wasn't a dominant effort and the Utes did look sloppy for stretches, but it was a win. And as we've seen throughout the year - they are hard to come by.
What this win provides is a bit of a confidence boost heading into the biggest game of the season. BYU, who at one point looked like they would run away with the Mountain West, enter the game badly looking for a win over Utah to improve their NCAA seeding. Make no mistake, this is a team that will get an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament regardless of what they do in the conference tournament. However, as past Cougar teams have proven, seeding is everything and after Saturday's loss at home to New Mexico (which most likely kills any hope of a conference championship), they're now fighting entirely for decent seeding.
Utah, though, isn't making the NCAA Tournament. Well I guess they could barnstorm through the UNLV Invitational and slide in there - but c'mon, that ain't happening.
So because of this, the season could be a somewhat acceptable rebuilding campaign if they beat the Cougars Wednesday. I don't think it will fully make up for some of the bad losses, but it would be pretty sweet to knock off BYU again and ruin their tournament seeding standing further.
Of course, that won't be easy. They are the 13th ranked team in the nation for a reason. Plus, they pretty much owned the Utes the last time these two teams met earlier in the year down in Provo. Plus, with how inconsistent Utah has played, I'm not fully convinced they have the horses to do it. But it is a rivalry game and you can pretty much expect the Utes to show up for this one.
The 2010 season hasn't been exactly what we expected. But the team has crawled to .500 ball and can finish above that with winning two out of their final three games (counting the conference tournament). Couple that with potentially finishing with 9 conference wins and they could salvage this season and give me hope heading into 2011.
But first thing first...beat BYU.