While USC wins, Utah suffers major setback with home-court loss to Stanford
That’s what every Pac-12 bubble watcher said or thought on Thursday evening when it became clear that the Utah Utes were going to lose to the Stanford Cardinal at home in Salt Lake City.
Every bubble team has a nightmare scenario, and it’s the same one regardless of conference: losing to a bad team at home.
Utah lost to a bad Stanford team at home, falling 78-72 to the Cardinal after trailing by as many as 17 points.
The Utes were in a must-win situation after losing at Oregon in their previous game on January 28. Utah did not display great energy out of the gate. Stanford jumped the Utes, built a huge lead, withstood a big run early in the second half, and held on for a win in the Huntsman Center which shattered the Utes and puts them on the ropes in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Utah did not have much margin for error going into Thursday evening’s game. Now Utah has basically zero margin for error.
The Utes, in the next three and a half weeks, play the Arizona schools on the road and the Los Angeles schools at home. Before the Stanford loss, Utah absolutely had to win at least two of the four games against the Arizona and L.A. schools. The loss to Stanford means Utah now has to win at least three of the four games, and more precisely, both the Arizona game in Tucson and the UCLA game in Salt Lake City. The Utes need two top-tier wins — plus the other games on their schedule — to get back to a decent bubble position. Anything less will leave them short.
If Utah beats USC and Arizona State but loses to both Arizona and UCLA, that’s not good enough. The Utes would not have the added elite-level wins they now need to compensate for a disastrous loss to Stanford.
Remember: Utah lost at home to Sam Houston State, on a neutral floor to Mississippi State, and on the road against a BYU team which won’t make the NCAA Tournament. Utah did absolutely nothing in nonconference play. It’s why a loss to Stanford is a significant drag on the Utes’ resume.
Utah’s odds of making the NCAA Tournament took a major hit. USC’s bubble position within the Pac-12 just improved by several more notches. The Utah loss is also notable because USC now has a two-game lead over the Utes for third place in the Pac-12. USC’s odds of finishing in the top four and getting that crucial first-round bye in the Pac-12 Tournament just went up considerably.
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