Utah Utes Still A Final Four Contender

By James Szuba
Utah Utes
Godofredo Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Fueled by the play of Dillon Brooks down the stretch, Oregon was able to upset Utah at home. Delon Wright was big for the Utes over the last five minutes of play, but it wasn’t enough to spark a come-from-behind victory as the Utes fell 69-58 on the road. With the loss, people might question whether the Utes are worthy of being labeled a contender. But don’t be fooled — Utah is still one of the best teams in the nation.

Utah still boasts an excellent tournament resume and should fall no lower than a No. 3 seed. The Utes are 10-5 vs. the RPI top 100, and have the 38th-best strength of schedule in the land. The Utes are a top-10 defensive team in the country, and only allow 56.1 points per game. This will bode well for them in the NCAA tournament.

The best defensive teams find ways to advance in the tournament, but Utah doesn’t get it done solely on the defensive end. Thanks to Delon Wright, they are able to do a multitude of things well. Utah can put up points on occasion, but what’s more impressive is the shots that the team takes. Rarely do the Utes take poor shots. As a result of the team’s discipline, the Utes shoot almost 50 percent from the floor.

Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor are superb complements to Wright. The two juniors both shoot 44 percent from long range and are able to alleviate some of the on-ball defensive pressure put on the All-American. Jakob Poeltl has really come onto the scene in his freshman season. Struggling lately, the seven-footer is still a low post threat and shoots an astounding 67.2 percent.

Utah can still win the Pac-12 should they edge out Arizona in their head-to-head matchup and the Wildcats drop a game. But whether they finish first or second in the PAC-12, be sure to watch the Utes in the NCAA tournament.

James Szuba is a college basketball writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesSzuba.

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