LAS VEGAS — Utah exceeded expectations to earn a first-round bye in this week’s Pac-12 tournament. The Utes wound up earning the No. 3 seed after being picked to finish seventh in the conference’s annual preseason media poll.
“You always want to overachieve,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “There’s not any I told you so or anything like that.”
Krystkowiak noted that the Utes have a track record of placing higher than expected — dating back to the program’s first Pac-12 campaign in 2011-12.
It’s a tribute, he explained, to the players and assistant coaches.
“A lot of the unsung heroes are the staff that we have — through and through — with how they get these guys ready and make demands and certainly make my job a lot easier,” Krystkowiak said. “So that’s where a lot of the credit goes.”
Utah enters this year’s gathering at T-Mobile Arena with a 6-6 record overall in Pac-12 tournament play. The Utes lost to California 78-75 in the quarterfinals last season. However, they reached the championship game in 2016 and the semifinals in both 2013 and 2015.
Postseason tournaments — dating back to his high school days in Montana — represent Krystkowiak’s favorite time of the year.
“To me it’s like a holiday,” he said. “But it’s the coolest time.”
Utah, though, is looking to stay hot. The Utes (19-10) have won six of their last seven games.
Krystkowiak said he’s “completely convinced” that they can win the tournament. He considers it to be a little bit open.
All-conference guard Justin Bibbins feels the same way.
“It’s up in the air,” he said. “It’s whoever wants it more.”
Utah defeated Colorado 64-54 in the regular-season finale last Saturday in the Huntsman Center. The Utes lost second-team all-conference honoree David Collette to an ankle injury early in the game. Reserve forward Chris Seeley stepped up with some big plays on defense to help offset the loss.
“Heading into three games here — to try to accomplish the next goal — you obviously need a bunch of guys,” Krystkowiak said. “So hopefully we’ll get Dave back in the mix and get some guys healthy. It could be a positive thing getting a little dust off of Chris and let him know that we need him.”
Utah will face either Oregon or Washington State in the quarterfinals Thursday (9:30 p.m., FS1). Should the Utes prevail, they could meet No. 2 USC in the late game Friday.
2018 Pac -12 tournament
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
(8) Colorado vs. (9) Arizona State, 1 p.m. (P12N)
(5) Stanford vs. (12) California, 3:30 p.m. (P12N)
(7) Washington vs. (10) Oregon State, 7 p.m. (P12N)
(6) Oregon vs. (11) Washington State, 9:30 p.m. (P12N)
(1) Arizona vs. Colorado or ASU, 1 p.m. (P12N)
(4) UCLA vs. Stanford or California, 3:30 p.m. (P12N)
(2) USC vs, Washington or OSU, 7 p.m. (P12N)
(3) UTAH vs. Oregon or WSU, 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
Semifinals, 7 p.m. (P12N) and 9:30 p.m. (FS1)
Championship, 8 p.m. (FS1)
All times Mountain