SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak likened departing seniors Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor, Dakarai Tucker and Jeremy Olsen to four corners symbolically building the foundation for the program. Each played a pivotal role in the Utes’ return to prominence. Loveridge, Taylor and Tucker are still on the active roster, while Olsen is assisting as a manager this season after having to retire as a player because of medical issues.
“It’s amazing how fast four years flies by,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak, who acknowledged that “Senior Night” will be a little bit bittersweet when the 13th-ranked Utes take on Colorado Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPNU) in the Huntsman Center.
“It’s our first class from start to finish. Kids we recruited when they were in high school,” Krystkowiak said. “This Senior Night certainly takes on some pretty special circumstances.”
Krystkowiak, whose squad has now posted three consecutive seasons with 21 or more wins, added that the players represent the start of the process — kids that in every phase took a leap of faith and believed in the coaching staff.
Loveridge, Olsen, Taylor, Tucker and walk-on Austin Eastman will be honored in pregame ceremonies before the regular-season finale.
“It’s just kind of bittersweet that our ride is coming to an end,” Taylor said. “But it's everything we dreamt of it to be and then we have a lot more to go.” And because of the latter, Krystkowiak wants to keep the Senior Night festivities short and sweet. He explained that getting the win and gearing up for next week’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas is far more important at this point. There will be time for longer reflection later.
“I try not to think about it,” Taylor said. “I haven’t thought about it. I don’t think it’s hit me yet.”
Utah (23-7, 12-5) can lock up the No. 2 seed with a victory over Colorado (21-9, 10-7). The Utes, who can also still grab a share of the Pac-12 regular-season title, have won six straight games as postseason play approaches.
“I think we’re having a very successful season right now — especially towards the end,” said sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, who will most likely be playing his final home game with the Utes as well. He’s projected to be an early NBA draft pick.
Poeltl told reporters that the opportunity to be part of a great season is part of the reason he decided to come back and play college basketball this season.
Utah is in position to earn a high seed in the NCAA tournament. The Utes reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2015.
“We took a program from where it was nothing and built it up to something,” Tucker said. “Now we just have to pass the advice down to the incoming people. If you just keep working hard everything is going to take care of itself.”
The next step is Saturday’s game against Colorado. The Buffaloes are still seeking their seeding for the Pac-12 tournament. They enter the final day of play with possibilities ranging from seeds No. 3 to No. 6.
EXTRA STUFF: Utah defeated Colorado 56-54 earlier this season in Boulder . . . Poeltl and senior Josh Scott of the Buffaloes are centers of attention and finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award. In their first head-to-head meeting, Scott finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Poeltl countered with six points and 11 rebounds . . . The all-conference awards will be announced on the Pac-12 Networks Monday at 7 p.m.