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Why Utah’s NCAA resume got a boost, even when the Runnin’ Utes lost

A couple of teams Utah beat in nonconference play — Saint Mary’s and Wake Forest — are enjoying extended winning streak to move into the top 50 of the NET rankings

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Saint Mary’s guard Augustas Marciulionis (3) drives towards the basket during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

Saint Mary’s guard Augustas Marciulionis (3) drives towards the basket during the first half of the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Santa Clara in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

Stephen Lam/San Francisco Chronicle via AP

Through the first three weeks of the Pac-12 season, the Utah men’s basketball team has yet to find the recipe for winning on the road in league play.

With Sunday’s 79-73 loss at Stanford, the Runnin’ Utes are now 0-3 on the road in conference action, combined with a 3-0 league record at home in the Huntsman Center.

Even with the recent road struggles, though, Utah still finds itself rated high in the NET rankings — the Utes were at No. 24 on Tuesday.

Utah can thank a solid showing during the nonconference portion of its schedule for helping keep the Utes’ NCAA Tournament resume looking strong, even as the team tries to find its footing away from Salt Lake City.

BYU was ranked No. 1 in the NET rankings when Utah beat the Cougars in early December, and the Cougars remain a top 5 NET team two weeks into Big 12 play after going 12-1 in nonconference play.

Two other programs that the Utes beat during nonconference play — Saint Mary’s and Wake Forest — have also gone on extended winning streaks to rank in the top 50 of the NET and now classify as Quad 1 wins for Utah.

Following the BYU game, Smith said, “This may be our fifth Quad 1 game already by the end of the year. There’s a very real chance that that could be the case.”

Here’s where Utah’s record in the NCAA’s quad system currently stands:

  • Quad 1: 3-3.
  • Quad 2: 2-2.
  • Quad 3: 2-0.
  • Quad 4: 5-0.

How have Saint Mary’s and Wake Forest helped Utah’s NCAA resume? Let’s take a look.

Saint Mary’s Gaels

When they played Utah: The Utes won 78-71 on Nov. 27.

The Gaels (13-6, 4-0 West Coast Conference) have won 10 of their past 11 games, after starting the year 3-5 with home losses against Utah and Weber State.

Saint Mary’s is coming off a dominant 73-49 victory over Santa Clara on the road, with Aidan Mahaney scoring 18 points to lead the Gaels. 

This came two days after Santa Clara edged Gonzaga, a loss that contributed to the Bulldogs falling out of the top 25 for the first time in seven years.

Three of the Gaels’ first four WCC victories have come on the road — they still have home (March 2) and away (Feb. 3) games with Gonzaga — and also beat then-No. 13 Colorado State in December, a major turning point in the season for Saint Mary’s.

The winning streak has lifted Saint Mary’s to No. 31 in the NET rankings.

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Wake Forest guard Cameron Hildreth (2) and forward Andrew Carr (11) celebrate in overtime of an NCAA college basketball game against Miami, Saturday, Jan. 6, 2024, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Allison Lee Isley, The Winston-Salem Journal via Associated Press

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

When they played Utah: The Utes won 77-70 on Nov. 16.

After a 1-2 start, including the loss against Utah at the Charleston Classic, the Demon Deacons (12-4, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won 11 of their past 13 games.

Last Saturday, Wake Forest beat Virginia 66-47 to give the Demon Deacons their first 4-1 start in ACC play since the 2004-05 season. 

Wake Forest picked up a win over top 50 NET team Florida in the nonconference and also edged Miami in overtime on Jan. 6.

The Demon Deacons are currently No. 46 in the NET rankings.

What’s up next for Utah

This week, the Utes (12-5, 3-3 Pac-12) will host Oregon State (Thursday, 7 p.m. MST, ESPN2) and Oregon (Sunday, 1 p.m., ESPN), as Utah looks to improve its 9-0 record at the Huntsman Center this season.

The Beavers (9-7, 1-4 Pac-12) are at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings, while the Ducks (13-3, 5-0 Pac-12) are at the top, as the lone remaining team who’s unbeaten in conference play.