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What national media are saying about Utah’s NCAA bubble chances

Utah Utes guard Gabe Madsen dribbles during a game against the California Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2024.
Utah Utes guard Gabe Madsen dribbles during a game against the California Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 2, 2024.

Heading into the final week of the regular season, the Utah men’s basketball team has gathered momentum after two strong blowout wins at home.

The question is, can the Runnin’ Utes build off that and help bolster their NCAA Tournament résumé?

Time is running out for Utah (18-11, 9-9 Pac-12) and other NCAA bubble teams to make a strong enough impression to warrant an at-large berth in the tournament.

Following their final two games of the regular season, the Utes will head to the Pac-12 tournament before Selection Sunday on March 17, when their postseason fate will be revealed.

How does the national media view Utah’s chances of breaking a seven-year NCAA Tournament drought?

After the lopsided wins over Stanford and California, the prospects look up a bit — if the Utes can stack up some road and neutral-site wins to add to that.

Utah’s NCAA Tournament résumé

As of March 5

  • NET ranking: No. 46.

  • Quad 1 record: 4-7.

  • Quad 2 record: 4-3.

  • Quad 3 record: 5-1.

  • Quad 4 record: 5-0.

  • Best wins: vs. BYU (No. 12 in NET), vs. Colorado (No. 30 in NET), at Saint Mary’s (No. 17 in NET), neutral site vs. Wake Forest (No. 31 in NET).

  • Worst losses: vs. Arizona State (No. 124 in NET), at Stanford (No. 120 in NET), at Arizona State (No. 124 in NET), at USC (No. 96).

  • Remaining regular-season games: Thursday at Oregon State (No. 162 in NET, Quad 3 opportunity), Saturday at Oregon (No. 64 in NET, Quad 1 opportunity).

What is being said about Utah’s NCAA bubble prospects

The Athletic’s Justin Williams said Utah is the Pac-12 team in the spotlight on the NCAA bubble watch, as Colorado is in a more advantageous position right now.

Two weeks ago, the Buffaloes beat the Utes by 24 in Boulder. Utah beat Colorado by five earlier this season in Salt Lake City.

“The Utes are straddling that ‘last four in/first four out’ line. They need to win the last two on the road at Oregon State and Oregon and hope the Ducks take down Colorado on Thursday, in addition to scoreboard-watching the rest of the bubble teams around the country,” Williams wrote.

“If Utah remains in fifth place in the Pac-12 standings entering next week, it likely needs to get two more in the conference tournament. Otherwise, its NCAA Tournament fate will be determined by games outside its control.”

ESPN’s John Gasaway has Arizona and Washington State as the only NCAA Tournament locks from the Pac-12, the sentiment across the board nationally, with Colorado and Utah identified as teams with “work to do.”

It’s notable that Oregon, who’s also spent its share of time in the NCAA bubble discussion, has fallen off the radar even further after a 20-point loss to Arizona last Saturday.

“Give Utah credit. After falling from ‘Should be in’ all the way down to ‘first four out,’ the Utes did what they had to do and took care of business at home. Wins in Salt Lake City over Stanford and Cal by a combined margin of 51 points halted the slide in the mock brackets and even boosted the NET ranking for Craig Smith’s group by seven spots,” Gasaway wrote.

“At 18-11, Utah has won three of four and is seen as right on the cut line as it embarks on a season-ending road trip to Oregon State and Oregon.”

Yahoo Sports’ Nick Bromberg identified Utah as one of five teams that need a strong finish to the season before Selection Sunday on March 17. He also called the Utes’ game at Oregon on Saturday (5 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Network) a “massive” one for the team’s NCAA hopes.

“The Utes are currently fifth in the Pac-12, but the conference could only be a three-bid league. Arizona and Washington State look like locks, while Colorado is the next-best bet,” Bromberg wrote. “Oregon, meanwhile, is falling further and further from the fringes of the bubble. Utah may need to sweep the Oregon schools and win multiple Pac-12 tournament games.”

What are the latest bracketology projections for Utah?

Here’s a look at where the Utes land in several of the latest bracketology projections: