No. 6 seed Utah (18-13) vs. No. 11 seed Arizona State (14-17)

Pac-12 tournament first round

Tip: Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. MDT.

Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.

TV: Pac-12 Network.

Livestream: Pac-12 Live.

Radio: 700 AM.

Series: Utah leads, 35-28. Arizona State has won the past five in the series, including two earlier games this season.

The trends

For Utah: The Runnin’ Utes (18-13, 9-11 Pac-12) had a chance to get a top-four seed in the Pac-12 tournament but fell in their final two games of the regular season, losing at Oregon State and Oregon. They held the head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington and California to earn the No. 6 seed. Prior to that two-game losing streak, Utah had won three of four.

For Arizona State: The Sun Devils (14-17, 8-12 Pac-12) led by nine in their regular-season finale against UCLA before the Bruins closed the game on a 25-4 run. That loss was Arizona State’s fifth in the past six games. The Sun Devils lost tiebreakers against USC and Stanford to land in the No. 11 seed.


“Great moments are born out of great opportunities. ... You get four years in your life or potentially five years in your life to play in a conference tournament or play in March Madness. It means something and it’s something these guys dream about. You just never know who’s really going to step up to the plate and be a real player on any given night, whether it’s our team or anyone else.” — Utah coach Craig Smith.

“You just don’t know, that’s why there is March Madness starting all over the country and there are stories being written now, teams that no one projected could do it and we’ll see who that is or if there’s a Cinderella story in our conference. ... I’ve seen it over and over the years where you get a player that steps up to do something extraordinary that you didn’t expect to so that’s the unknown and the beauty of these tournaments,” Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley, per Arizona Republic.

The stakes

For Utah: The Utes were seen as a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble as recently as a week ago, but falling at Oregon State was a damaging Quad 3 loss. Now, Utah needs a deep run in the Pac-12 tournament to get itself back into contention for an NCAA at-large bid, or the Utes could earn the league’s auto bid by winning the Pac-12 tournament championship for the first time ever. The Utes are currently No. 52 in the NET rankings and are 4-8 against Quad 1 opponents, 4-3 against Quad 2 opponents, 5-2 against Quad 3 opponents and 5-0 against Quad 4 opponents.

For Arizona State: The Sun Devils aren’t likely to play beyond the Pac-12 tournament without winning a lot in Las Vegas. The NCAA Tournament is out of consideration without winning the Pac-12 tournament, and ASU’s resume isn’t particularly strong and enticing enough to warrant an NIT invite. Maybe a run to the Pac-12 semifinals or championship game could change that, with the right matchups.

Players to watch

For Utah: The big question going into the tournament is whether Branden Carlson, the team’s leader, will be able to play. He appeared to hurt his left elbow in the Utes’ loss at Oregon and his coach said Carlson will be a game-time decision. If Carlson, who averages 17.5 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game, isn’t available, that increases the responsibility on guys like point guard Deivon Smith, guard Gabe Madsen and center Lawson Lovering, as well as others like post players Keba Keita and Ben Carlson and guard Hunter Erickson. ASU has done a good job bottling up Madsen in their previous matchups — it would help the Utes’ chances tremendously if he can get going early.

For Arizona State: The Sun Devils will be without one of their top players, Jose Perez, who left the team late last week and has already signed a pro contract with a team in the Dominican Republic. Perez averaged 24.5 points in the two games against Utah this season. Guard Frankie Collins leads ASU by averaging 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game, while transfer Adam Miller has come on strong since becoming eligible in mid-December, averaging 12.4 points and 3.2 rebounds.