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What an amazing week it’s been for Utah athletics.

As Utah women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts said Sunday, “What a great time to be at the University of Utah.”

The No. 2 seeded women’s basketball team advanced to the Sweet 16 after wins over Gardner-Webb and Princeton last weekend. And after No. 1 seed Indiana’s loss Monday, Utah is the highest seed remaining in the Greenville 2 Regional.

The Utes face No. 3 seed LSU Friday at 3 p.m. in Greenville, South Carolina. Monday, Roberts was named one of the finalists for the Naismith Women’s Coach of the Year.

Alissa Pili, the Pac-12’s Player of the Year, leads Utah with 20.2 points per game. Pili scored a career-high 33 points in a 103-77 victory over Princeton in front of 7,190 fans at the Huntsman Center.

Meanwhile, the gymnastics team won its third consecutive Pac-12 championship.

Utah’s softball team has jumped into the top 20, at No. 19, for the first time since 2018.

Oh, and the two-time defending Pac-12 champion Utes football team kicked off spring practices Tuesday. The annual spring game will be held on April 22.

“Exactly what you’d expect. First day, a lot of excitement,” coach Kyle Whittingham said Tuesday. “It’s great to be out here. … It’s great to be out here, playing some football.”

In case you missed it

Former Deseret News sports writer Dirk Facer died on March 15. Anyone that’s followed Utah sports over the last 30 years knows Facer’s outstanding reporting. He was named Utah Sportswriter of the Year five times.

But for those who worked with him, Facer’s legacy transcends all of that, which is why tributes to him poured in after his death. Former Deseret News sports writer Amy Donaldson called him “Everyone’s ally.”

Former Deseret News columnist Brad Rock wrote this about Facer: “In a profession filled with self-importance, Dirk was the antithesis. Football press boxes have a fair share of people who think they are vitally important. Dirk, on the other hand, merely thought his job was. But that didn’t stop him from injecting levity into tense situations. When his story came out the following day, and after every other game, there it would be — clear, clean and accurate. It’s something that barely exists in the clickbait world of today’s Twitter-driven journalism.”

Facer’s passing leaves a huge void. He will remembered. And he will be missed.

From the archives

Related
What are some of the biggest storylines heading into Utah’s spring practices?
Here are the teams that stand between Utah and another trip to the NCAA gymnastics championships
There’s more attrition for Utah basketball. How many scholarships do the Utes have available?

Extra points

  • ‘Great Day One’: What are Utah’s main objectives during spring ball, the 2023 season? (Deseret News)
  • Pac-12 bosses go on media offensive (Deseret News)
  • Utah makes Pac-12 history, 3-peats as conference champions (Deseret News)
  • 2023 Utah NFL ties free agency tracker (Deseret News)
  • What Jordan Chiles said after Jade Carey was named Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year (Deseret News)
  • Utah’s Lynne Roberts is a Naismith Coach of the Year finalist (Deseret News)
  • Analysis: Sloppy Utes get big lift from home crowd, outlast scrappy Princeton to advance to Sweet 16 (Deseret News)

Fanalyst

I’m glad they found a way to advance. That’s a BIG Deal (Making it to the final 16 teams left in the country still playing to determine the best team in the country)

I hope they play their best the rest of the games. All it takes is one sloppy game and it’s over.

You practice all your life and play the whole season to get the honor and privilege to play in the NCAA Tournament (for any sport). When you get the chance.. Dance like there’s no tomorrow.

— 2 bits

This was an extremely hard fought game. The atmosphere was terrific. As the game progressed, I was a little annoyed at how the Princeton oach seemed to successfully play the refs, even with the foul disparity, since Princeton basically tried to manhandle Pili all night with usually 3 players jumping on top of her the entire game. Yet Pili scored 28 points — what a player! The supporting players are all very skilled. Kneepkens had an off night, but she’ll bounce back. And coach Roberts is the best. She always is in control on the sidelines, which carries over to her players. Good luck, Utes, and beat LSU!

— GoRed

I always appreciated Dirk’s diligence in following the Journalist’s Mantra of “who, what, when, and why” — but his greatest gift was his appreciation of the absurd — especially when it came to sports. He certainly chronicled the excitement of a game, but helped us understand that our self-esteem need not be tied to a football score.

It’s also nice to have Brad back, if only for a day. I think a lot of Dirk rubbed off on you, or maybe it was the other way around.

— Henry Drummond

Up next

March 24 | 3 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. LSU | @Greenville, South Carolina | ESPN
March 25 | 1 p.m. | Softball | vs. Weber State | @Salt Lake City
March 25 | 3 p.m. | Softball | vs. Weber State | @Salt Lake City
March 25 | 3:05 p.m. | Baseball | vs. Stanford | @Stanford, California
March 26 | 2:05 p.m. | Baseball | vs. Stanford | @Stanford, California
March 27 | 1:05 p.m. | Baseball | vs. Stanford | @Stanford, California
March 30 | 3 p.m. | Gymnastics | NCAA Regional Second Round | @Los Angeles

Utah football players run through drills on the first day of spring practice Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Salt Lake City. | Hunter Dyke, Utah Athletics