All right, folks! We had the vote and it looks like we're ready to eliminate two teams from the debate.
That team will be the 1999 Runnin' Utes who went undefeated in conference play, won the conference tournament and then were upset in the second round by Miami Ohio. Great, great regular season but a pretty disappointing finish doomed them in this vote. And then the 1956 Elite Eight team that took advantage of a very friendly postseason schedule (they only won one game).
It's a choice I agree with, though I think had Andre Miller not been injured, the 1999 Utes put together a pretty deep tournament run. But you can't live with what ifs and ultimately, they struggled in the tournament (where it counts the most).
So now we move to the seedings. This is all subjective and I'm sure some of you will disagree with me - but it is what it is.
The number one seed is...
#1. 1998 Utah Utes
What they did: Only managed to shock the college basketball world by upsetting the defending national champion Arizona Wildcats in the Elite Eight and then defeating the favorite, and number one overall seed, North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four. They eventually lost to Kentucky in the championship game, even after building a double-digit halftime lead. But outside of the 1944 championship, this is the closest any Utah team has come to winning a title.
#2. 1997 Utah Utes
What they did: They made the Elite Eight for the first time in a generation. The '97 Utes were supposed to be the greatest team in Utah basketball history, surging up the rankings and pretty much rolling its way through the first three rounds as a 2-seed (the best in school history). Then they ran into Kentucky in the Elite Eight and lost 72-59. Damn those Wildcats.
#3. 1944 Utah Utes
What they did: The only major championship the University of Utah owns. The 1944 Utes actually opted out of the NCAA Tournament originally, but replaced Arkansas after an accident injured much of the team. Utah went on to beat Missouri in the first round, then knocked off Iowa State and finally defeated Dartmouth in the championship game.
#4. 1966 Utah Utes
What they did: Made the NCAA Final Four for the second time under legendary head coach Jack Gardner. The Utes would lose to eventual champion UTEP (then Texas Western) in the Final Four. That year, Utah's Jerry Chambers was named the tournament MVP - even though his team failed to win the tournament.
#5. 1961 Utah Utes
What they did: This was the year the Utes really were put on the map as a basketball power. Utah had its best season since the 1944 championship and advanced to the Final Four before losing to the eventual champion Cincinnati Bearcats.
#6. 1991 Utah Utes
What they did: This was Rick Majerus' coming out party. After the program had spent the good portion of the 80s slumping, he stepped in and in his first full season produced the first 30-win campaign in school history. He also guided the Utes to the Sweet Sixteen, as they knocked off South Alabama and Michigan State along the way. Their run came to an end, however, against the UNLV Rebels (before they were a member of the WAC). The Rebels were the defending national champions, but failed to repeat as they lost to Duke in the championship game.
#7. 1996 Utah Utes
What they did: This was the beginning of their incredible run to end the 1990s. Utah easily advanced through the first round, held off Iowa State in the second and then lost 101-70 to, of course, to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen. It marked the first of a three-year stretch where Utah would end their season with a loss to the Wildcats.
#8. 1983 Utah Utes
What they did: As a ten-seed, not much was expected from the Utes. They opened up as underdogs against Illinois and pulled off the close victory. In the second round, against the two-seed UCLA Bruins, the Utes pulled off one of their biggest upsets in school history - defeating the Bruins 67-61 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. There they would lose to North Carolina State, who went on to win the championship.
#9. 2005 Utah Utes
What they did: Andrew Bogut, along with Marc Jackson and Justin Hawkins, guided the Utes to a then-best Mountain West record and eventually received a six seed in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. After beating UTEP in the first round, the Utes surprised the three-seeded Oklahoma Sooners in the second to advance to their first Sweet Sixteen since the 1998 season. There, as it always seems to be, the Utes lost to Kentucky 62-52. That was the last year Utah won a tournament game.
So there you have it, the seeding. I swapped out the 1981 Utes with the 1983 team because I felt their postseason resume was far better (two big upsets and losing to the eventual champion).
With the seeding out of the way, here is the bracket:
#1. 1998 versus #8/9. 1983/2005 winner
#2. 1997 versus #7. 1996
#3. 1944 versus #6. 1991
#4. 1966 versus #5. 1961
The first votes will take place Monday and that will be between the 1983 Utes and the 2005 Utes. The winner there will then take on the 1998 Utah team.
So look for that next week.