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Previewing Colorado

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NCAA Basketball: Colorado at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Well, last weekend didn’t go exactly as planned for the Runnin’ Utes. What was supposed to be a cakewalk of a game against the winless (in Pac-12 play) Oregon State Beavers turned into a demoralizing defeat that leaves fans questioning why they should even bother watching the rest of the season.

Utah’s NCAA tournament hopes were already in jeopardy heading into the contest with Oregon State, but after that loss, there’s no way that the Utes will get back to the Big Dance this year. That leaves three regular-season games on the schedule against Colorado, Cal and Stanford, as well as the Pac-12 tournament shortly after.

The next matchup on the docket with the Buffaloes will most likely be another tough contest for the Utes. The two teams currently sit next to each other in the Pac-12 standings: Utah is in sixth with an 8-7 conference record, while Colorado is in a tie for seventh at 7-9.

While it may feel like a lost season, the lone remaining motivating factor that can push the Utes through the end is the Pac-12 tournament. We all know how much Larry K loves this weekend with it being a surefire way to earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.

Again, Utah has no chance otherwise, so you can bet that Krystkowiak and company will be doing everything they can to win it all in Vegas.

The top four teams in the conference standings at season’s end secure a bye to the second night of the Pac-12 tournament. The team will need some extra help around the league, but if it’s able to win out, which will include a win over Cal, there’s a chance the Utes can sneak into that fourth and final top seed.

Oregon, Arizona and UCLA have all but locked up the top three spots, but with the Golden Bears sitting in fourth at 9-5, there’s still a chance for Utah (cue Dumb and Dumber quote). If the Utes can do that, this will keep them fresh for if/when they advance to play those aforementioned top three teams.

Back to Thursday night, the last time Utah and Colorado met was the Pac-12 opener for both teams, with Utah walking away with the 76-60 win. This set the Buffaloes on a seven-game losing streak to open up conference play. Since, they’ve won six of their last eight games, including an upset win Oregon in late January, just days after Utah was unsuccessful in upending the Ducks in SLC.

To say Colorado is a hot team might be a stretch, but it certainly is playing much better basketball than it was the last time it met the Utes on the hardwood. Oh, and they’ve beaten Oregon State both times this year, like almost every other Pac-12 school not named Utah.

Colorado is pretty solid all over the court, but doesn’t really excel at one specific thing. The team is led by just three players who score in double digits, Derrick White (16.8 PPG), Xavier Johnson -- he’s still around?? -- (14.6) and George King (11.6).

Other than that, there isn’t anything really sexy about the Buffaloes. But, to the dismay of all Runnin’ Utes fans out there, the same could be said about Utah. The Utes showed that they were the better team the first time around, but they haven’t played like the better team as of late.

Let’s hope that changes on Thursday night in Boulder.