LAS VEGAS — David Collette’s status for the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 Tournament isn’t all that clear. The all-conference senior, who suffered an ankle sprain in last Saturday’s 64-54 win over Colorado, is with the team and reportedly dressed for the closed practices. It’s his level of participation, though, that remains under wraps.
“He’s hobbled up pretty good. So I wouldn’t plan on it a whole lot,” said Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak. “But our training staff’s doing a nice job getting him back and getting some of the swelling. It still doesn’t look favorable.”
Krystkowiak then took a line from Utah football coach Kyle Whittingham when it comes to injuries and said “Next man up.” That was followed by “We’ll let it fly.”
Sophomore Jayce Johnson, freshman Donnie Tillman and redshirt freshman Chris Seeley are the guys the Utes will look to in case Collette and his 12.8 points and 4.8 rebounds need to be supplemented. Krystkowiak noted that things may have to be skewed a bit in order to better play to their strengths.
Krystkowiak vows the Utes will be ready for their quarterfinal game against Oregon on Thursday (9:30 p.m., FS1). Even so, Krystkowiak doesn’t think wins in the tournament will be completely based on preparation. It’s going to be part of it, he explained, but there’s not a whole lot of time for it once the games begin.
“So it’s really about the players making plays and not making mistakes,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ll give them as much information as we can, but this is going to be far more about effort.”
And, he added, something they talk about often.
“Plays don’t make plays, players make plays,” Krystkowiak said. “So that’s what we’re going to have to lean on.”
After winning five of their last six games to enter the Pac-12 tourney with a 19-10 record — including an 11-7 mark in conference play — the Utes have given Krystkowiak the sense that they’re together and playing well. He said it feels markedly different than a year ago when Utah earned the No. 4 seed only to lose to California in the quarterfinals and wound up in the NIT.
“I’d certainly prefer feeling this way than I would a year ago where you knew some things were off and you don’t have any time to fix them,” said Krystkowiak, who acknowledged that some things are clicking. However, he noted it’s all about making things happen Thursday night at this point.
There’s plenty of optimism in this year’s tournament. Krystkowiak said it’s “safe to say” that things are wide open. Besides top seeds Arizona and USC, he pointed out that there’s not a whole lot of separation between No. 3 and No. 10.
As such, Krystkowiak admits the initial mindset is just to win the first game. He is well aware that winning the tournament is the sure-fire way to punch a ticket to the NCAAs. It’s one way to put all discussions aside, the coach explained, eliminating the need for a big sales pitch when it comes to earning a tourney berth.
“I hope some attention is paid to teams that have improved from the beginning of the year to the end and are playing good basketball at the right time,” Krystkowiak said. “I’ve got to believe experts are making those decisions and looking at some of those things.”
EXTRA STUFF: The Utes went to the Michael Jackson tribute show “One” by Cirque Du Soleil at Mandalay Bay on Tuesday night . . . The team had a morning shoot-around at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday. They also practiced at nearby Clark High School . . . Krystkowiak, his staff and the players have rubber wristbands that describe the program’s “DNA” as “Different, Noticeable, Appealing” . . . Oregon advanced to the quarterfinals with a 64-62 overtime victory over Washington State late Wednesday.
Pac-12 Tournament quarterfinals
Utah (19-10) vs. Oregon (21-11)
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Thursday, 9:30 p.m. (Mountain)