Utah trending toward being a Final Four pick, topples No. 9 Arizona

Brandon Taylor was Utah’s biggest weapon on Saturday. He’s a key for March success. (USATSI)

It took Utah 10 tries as Pac-12 members to beat the king of the league.

But on Saturday afternoon, the Utes finally got a win (70-64) over Arizona. In doing so, Larry Krystkowiak’s 22nd-ranked Utes took control of the Pac-12 race ahead of the Wildcats and showed the latest reason why they’re becoming a team many could see reaching this year’s Final Four.

The victory was the first for Utes against the Wildcats since March 21, 1998, when Rick Majerus coached Utah to the Final Four after beating ‘Zona in the Elite Eight.

No. 9 Arizona made runs, looked impressive in many spots, but it’s hard to win on the road against an opponent like Utah. This is the play that locked up the victory for the Utes. See this sick crossover-and-3 by Brandon Taylor. It made it a 69-64 game with 40 seconds to go.

Taylor finished 4 of 5 from 3-point range. He’s been playing very well from deep as of late. To wit:

Utah won because of a 7-0 run down the stretch. It shot 50 percent for the game and had just eight turnovers. You might recall how the Utes were a No. 4 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Now it’s looking like that’s the worst-case scenario for a team sitting at 23-7 with one game left in the regular season, a home tilt against Colorado next Saturday.

Arizona got 23 points from Allonzo Trier, who looked All-Pac-12 quality. Plus, Kaleb Tarczewski showed fairly well with 10 rebounds, nine points and three blocks. This dunk was his highlight.

Arizona is now 22-7, 10-6 in the conference. Its standing in the bracket isn’t so great right now. Yeah, the Wildcats are a lock to make the tournament, but if they don’t win out at home against Cal and Stanford in the next week, this is a team that could be in an 8/9 game. Sean Miller’s team has only two wins against top-50 RPI clubs (Oregon State and USC) and has not defeated a team ranked 25th or higher in the RPI.

Of course, Arizona winning the Pac-12 league tournament would be game-changer. Expect that conference bracket to be as weird as it gets. There’s still a lot to be determined with the Pac-12. What’s known, though: Utah is playing like the best team in the league and has a great path ahead to chase a No. 2 seed if it does not lose again until Selection Sunday. Even one more loss should mean a No. 3.


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