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Which is better, Larry Krystkowiak, NCAA tournament or NBA playoffs?

SHARE Which is better, Larry Krystkowiak, NCAA tournament or NBA playoffs?
If you told me I could only have a TV for a month, I’d need it right now, starting Thursday, and I’d give it back to you when the Masters is over. – Larry Krystkowiak


High above his sprawling Willow Creek home, a flag with the Ute logo unfurled on Sunday. Parked in the circular driveway sat Larry Krystkowiak’s classic cherry GTO convertible, polished to a mirror shine.

Yes, he had a case of March Madness, or maybe Tournament Tremors, when pairings were announced. As they watched on Krystkowiak’s TV, center Jakob Poeltl said, “My palms are sweating.”

“So are mine,” Krystkowiak replied.

They had reason to feel their pulses jump. Utah’s last trip to the NCAA tournament was in 2009. Now the Utes are a No. 5 seed, set to play No. 12 Stephen F. Austin on Thursday in Portland. That’s not a terrible seeding for the Utes, just below where they were projected a few weeks ago. Still, as the coach noted moments after the announcement, “It’s a great day to be a Ute.”

For that matter, it was a great day to be a Bruin (Belmont, UCLA), Tiger (Texas Southern, LSU) or Bulldog (Butler, Gonzaga).

If you get in the tourney, life is good. If you don’t, you may as well order the bread sticks and pizza and watch anyway.

“I think it’s the best sporting month of the year, starting right now,” Krystkowiak said. “If you told me I could only have a TV for a month, I’d need it right now, starting Thursday, and I’d give it back to you when the Masters is over. So this is a pretty magical time of year, as we all know, and I think it’s one of the best sporting events there is.”

Kyrstkowiak couldn’t have been blamed for becoming jaded to these things. He played a decade in the NBA. If anything can suffocate the “gee whiz” impulse, it’s professional sports. Winning an NBA title could take up to 28 postseason games. That’s only four fewer games than the Utes have played all season.

NBA teams can lose 12 times in the playoffs and still be champions.

Lose in the NCAA tourney and you vanish like Hoffa.

Krytskowiak was on an NBA playoff team five times, one of them with the 1992-93 Jazz, who lost in the first round to Seattle. His longest run was with the Milwaukee Bucks in 1989. That year they beat Atlanta, 3-2, but followed with a matchup against Detroit. That’s never a treat, but even rougher when the Bad Boys were at their assault-and-battery best. The Bucks came sans pepper spray and got swept in the four-game series.

Krystkowiak experienced 20 NBA playoff games, though none during his 100 games as the Bucks’ coach. However, when he coached at Montana his teams made the tournament twice, which raises comparisons as to whether the NCAA tournament and NBA playoffs are better.

Depends on whether you like to read "War and Peace" or just the Cliff’s Notes.

“You can drop one game in the NBA playoffs and say, ‘Let’s make some adjustments’ and it’s not the end of the world,” Krystkowiak said. “But I think that’s what makes March Madness in college so much more magical for people.”

Teams do their adjusting on the fly.

Meanwhile, big teams sometimes flame out, while small ones become famous for a day. Richmond beats Syracuse, Lehigh beats Duke, George Mason beats UConn, Northern Iowa beats Kansas.

Utah vs. 12th-seeded Stephen F. Austin?

Careful, Utes. The dreamers are coming.

“I don’t know, but I’m guessing if you look through history, there have been enough times when 12s won,” Krystkowiak cautioned.

Forty-four, to be precise — including SFA last season. This year's Lumberjacks have won 28 of their last 29 games.

According to Syracuse.com, in the last 30 years, the only time a No. 12 seed didn’t beat a No. 5 was in 1998, 2000 and 2007. In Utah’s last appearance (2009), No. 12 Arizona eradicated the No. 5 Utes. So it’s understandable that the possibility of a single-game postseason was already sinking in on the Utes, early this week. SFA could present problems with its athleticism.

“We’re average athletically,” Krystkowiak noted.

The trick at this time of year is to be above average in the head and heart.

Email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: @therockmonster; Blog: Rockmonster Unplugged