No one stormed the court at Utah, which ought to tell you everything about the Utes right now.
It had been 18 years since Utah beat Arizona, stretching all the way back to an Elite Eight game in 1998. Yet, when the Utes broke the string with a 70-64 win in front of a frenzied, red-out crowd, the fans stayed put (no doubt, much to the delight of Sean Miller, potential fisticuffs and the Pac-12) because in the grand picture, it’s not really an upset.
Yes, the Wildcats were ranked higher than Utah, but right now, the Utes are the better team.
If you didn’t know that, don’t worry. The Utes are flying snake-belly below the radar, a byproduct of two early-season losses (to Miami and Wichita State) that looked worse at the time than they actually were, and a lousy opening weekend in conference play.
But if you’re looking for a team that’s heading into March on the proper trajectory, the Utes might just be it. They’ve won six in a row and 11 of their past 13, and in a Pac-12 where too many teams look like carbon copies of one another, the Utes have distinguished themselves from the pack. With just one game left (at home against Colorado), Utah has a chance to win the league crown, which would be their first since joining the conference in 2011 and their first in any league since 2009 (the Utes also need Oregon to lose one of its last three games).
That’s why the win against Arizona wasn’t so big.
Now here’s why it was big: People will sit up and take notice. Arizona remains the benchmark in the Pac-12, the team by which all others are measured, and for six tries, the Utes failed to measure up. The closest they came was a four-point overtime loss a year ago.
Fittingly, Brandon Taylor was the guy who helped the Utes over the hump. When Taylor was a senior in high school, Utah finished 6-25 in Larry Krystowiak’s first year. Taylor signed with the Utes anyway.
His loyalty and faith were rewarded a year ago when Utah made its way to the Sweet 16, but it’s even sweeter to see Taylor have a signature moment in Utah’s signature win.
The senior finished with 19 points, hit 4-of-5 3-pointers, swiped five steals and broke both of Gabe York's ankles. Taylor's crossover step-back 3 left the Wildcats defender literally falling on his face and essentially sealed the Utes' win.
A win that wasn’t so big to merit a court storm, but big nonetheless.