ESPN.com's Joe Lunardi, one of the most respected "experts" on NCAA Tournament selection, just released his latest Bracketology projections, and the No. 8-ranked Runnin' Utes check in with a 2-seed. Pac-12 conference foe, No. 10 Arizona, who the Utes will face on Saturday fell to the 3-seed level.
Even in 1998, when Utah made it's deepest run in the tournament since the 1960s, the Runnin' Utes were a 3-seed. Kentucky, Utah's opponent in the national title game was a 2-seed. (The 2-seed that year, Cincinnati, was knocked off by West Virginia, a 10-seed, in the second round.) A 2-seed keeps the Utes farther from the dreaded 12-seed and closer to that hallowed 1-seed. (Just to throw in a little Holy War trivia, Jimmer Fredettes' senior year Cougars were a 3-seed with a Sweet 16 ending to their run.)
Other interesting changes are Gonzaga of the West Coast Conference has been elevated to a 2-seed. The Zags have taken on three Pac-12 teams this season, Arizona, UCLA, and Washington State, beating all but the Wildcats. Could that mean that with a signature win in Tucson on Saturday the Utes could move to a 1-seed? Possibly.
ESPN.com's Basketball Power Index (BPI) has Kentucky, Virginia, Gonzaga, and Villanova as the 1-4 rated teams, which corresponds to the entire set of 1-seeds for Lunardi's Bracketology. Utah comes in at No. 8 in the BPI, which puts them in the second tier of seeds, and Arizona's No. 10 places them in the third set of seeds. Kansas, Utah's "good non-conference loss," is No. 11, while Wichita State, a good non-conference win, is No. 17.
Utah's Current NCAA Tournament Resumé:
BPI rank: 8
BPI SOS rank: 94
RPI SOS: 25
Vs RPI Top 25: 1-1
Vs RPI Top 50: 1-2
Vs RPI Top 100: 4-2
Utah missing Loveridge: 9-2
Utah with all top players available: 4-0
Utah's opponents missing top player: 1-0
Utah's opponents with all top players available: 12-2
Both teams with all top players available: 3-0
Utah is the lone unbeaten team remaining in Pac-12 play at 3-0. The Utes will enter tonight's game (8 p.m. MT on Fox Sports 1) against Arizona State as a decided favorite, with the real showdown remaining on Saturday at 5 p.m. MT in Tucson, Ariz.