When Utah faced Colorado on Saturday night, it was a matchup of two teams that are considered to be squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble.

The Buffaloes looked inspired to make their way back into the NCAA picture.

The Utes were listless much of the night.

That resulted in an 89-65 Colorado win at the CU Events Center in Boulder, Colorado, that could have been worse for Utah, if not for a late spurt.

Utah had ‘no answer’ in a lopsided loss at Colorado
3 takeaways from Utah’s loss at Colorado

It’s a troubling sign with just two weeks of the regular season and the Pac-12 tournament remaining for the Utes before Selection Sunday on March 17.

Colorado took control early, using a 12-0 run to create separation from a Utah squad that simply didn’t have many answers defensively. 

The Buffaloes shot 54.2% from the field, including 57.1% in the second half, while making 10 of 21 3-pointers.

“We’ve got to be better than we were tonight. We’ve got to have more resistance, but they made a lot of plays,” Utah coach Craig Smith said on the ESPN 700 postgame show. 

“We kept them out of transition for the most part. You know, we weren’t able to force turnovers. We don’t have a team that forces a lot of turnovers but they only had four. It’s got to be higher than that. That just tells you our lack of pressure on the ball, our lack of resistance on the ball. Everybody has to defend better but our guards specifically, we have to be better at defending.”

The loss dropped Utah out of the top 50 in the updated NET rankings, as the Utes now sit at No. 54. 

It was one of the Utes’ final opportunities to earn a Quad 1 victory and leaves them with a 3-7 record in Quad 1 games, with none of those wins coming in league play.

The game left national media weighing in on Utah’s slimming NCAA Tournament prospects.

ESPN’s John Gasaway said Utah is down to its last chance to make a push for the NCAAs.

“True, the Utes are 12-2 at home this season. Perhaps upcoming dates in Salt Lake City against Stanford and Cal can extend this conversation,” Gasaway wrote. 

“... The Utes can still get it done, but to do so they’ll have to play more like they did in December and less like they have in calendar 2024.”

USA Today’s Jordan Mendoza labeled Utah as one of the “bubble game losers” after the weekend’s action. 

“Utah could only hope to forget about its disaster of a performance against Colorado as it has lost four of its last five games, including bad losses to Arizona State and Southern California — and salvaged only by a last-second victory over UCLA,” Mendoza wrote. 

“It’ll be tough to improve the résumé for the rest of the regular season when three of the last four games are against Quad 3 teams.”

The Runnin’ Utes (16-11, 7-9 Pac-12) have now lost six of their last eight games and fallen to eighth place in the Pac-12 standings.

Utah will host Stanford on Thursday (6:30 p.m. MST, Pac-12 Network) and Cal on Saturday (7 p.m., Pac-12 Network) in the team’s final home games of the regular season, then will hit the road for games at Oregon State and Oregon next week ahead of the Pac-12 tournament.

Smith continued to project hope that the Utes can build some momentum heading into the postseason.

“We’ve got to learn from this. We’re gonna have a really good film session on Monday and we have four winnable games coming up here, but they should all be winnable, right?” the coach said.

“That’s got to be the mindset but somehow seize some momentum here going into the conference tournament and try to find a way to get a spark and everything’s on the table, whether that’s lineup changes, or whatever it might be that way.”