College Basketball Nation: Jordan Loveridge

LAS VEGAS -- Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak says he’s a firm believer in “the basketball gods.” So time and time again this season, whenever he’d pass through the gym an hour or so after practice and see Jarred DuBois still on the court, taking shot after shot, Krystkowiak knew the grad-year transfer from Loyola Marymount would eventually be rewarded. He had faith the extra work would eventually pay off.

On Thursday, it finally did.

DuBois’ guarded 3-pointer with four seconds remaining forced overtime against Cal and provided the Utes all the momentum they would need in a 79-69 victory in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The win propels No. 10 seed Utah into Friday’s semifinal against the winner of Thursday’s late game between Oregon and Washington. It also provided yet another illustration of the improvement the Utes continue to experience under second-year coach Krystkowiak, whose team is riding a four-game winning streak.

One season after finishing 6-25, Utah is now 15-17. Also worth noting is that eight of the Utes’ losses have come by five points or fewer, including three setbacks to open Pac-12 play by a combined eight points.

Krystkowiak did an excellent job of keeping his players’ spirits high and their minds focused on improving. It’s clear Utah’s program is headed in the right direction under Krystkowiak.

“We’re pleased with where we are, obviously,” Krystkowiak said. “I think the credit needs to go to our team. A lot of times it’s just coach-talk about how a team sticks together. But it was unbelievable to be able to withstand some of those losses early.”

Krystkowiak said there were times he’d arrive at practice after a tough loss, prepared to give a pep talk. But he’d look out onto the court and see his players in high spirits, with veterans such as DuBois and Jason Washburn setting the tone.

“They actually gave me a boost,” Krystkowiak said.

Utah’s resiliency was on full display in the second half Thursday, when it trailed by as many as eight points. Cal, the No. 2 seed, went up 59-56 on a pair of foul shots by Allen Crabbe with 17 seconds left in regulation before DuBois made his heroic 3-pointer from the left wing on the next possession.

The Utes scored the first five points of overtime and never looked back.

“I felt like we just needed to turn it on right there,” freshman Jordan Loveridge said. “As a team, we huddled up and decided we’re here already, so we might as well go and get it.”

A victory against Oregon or Washington on Friday -- the Utes own regular-season wins against each -- would catapult Krystkowiak’s squad into Saturday’s title game against either Arizona or UCLA for an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. DuBois was asked about the Utes being “halfway there” in terms of a postseason bid.

“I don’t think we’re halfway there,” he said. “It’s a one-game season. You win one night, you play the next. Plain and simple.”

Conference Power Rankings: Pac-12

December, 21, 2012
Is there any league in the country where the drop-off from No. 1 to No. 2 is so significant? At least the Big 12 has a ranked team (Oklahoma State) chasing Kansas. In the Pac-12 it's Arizona and then, well ... no one. Here are this week's power rankings.

1. Arizona. The Wildcats open play against East Tennessee State in the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu on Saturday and could face a tough test against an underrated Miami squad in the second round. If the bracket holds form, Arizona would play San Diego State in the title game on Christmas Day.

2. Colorado. UCLA, Oregon and Cal have all been in the No. 2 slot at some point this season -- and so has Colorado, which is making its return despite a 36-point loss to Kansas on Dec. 8. Spencer Dinwiddie is a finalist for the Cousy Award. Andre Roberson averages 12.3 rebounds, which ranks third nationally.

3. Oregon. The Ducks lost at UTEP on Wednesday in three overtimes, but Dana Altman still has to be encouraged with the direction of this team -- and this program. Arsalan Kazemi has three double-doubles in his past five games.

4. UCLA. There is too much talent in Westwood to write off the Bruins this early. UCLA has won four of its past five games, with the only setback coming against San Diego State. A victory over Fresno State on Saturday seems likely. Shabazz Muhammad (17.8 points) and Jordan Adams (17.5) are both putting up impressive offensive numbers.

5. Oregon State. What has happened to Ahmad Starks? The point guard who had 25 points in a single-digit loss to Kansas on Nov. 30 is averaging just 7.5 points in his past four contests. Oregon State should beat its next three opponents (San Diego, Towson and Texas-Pan American) before opening Pac-12 play at home against Oregon on Jan. 6.

6. Cal. Last weekend's loss to Creighton marked the third loss in a three-game skid (since snapped with a win over UC Santa Barbara) for Mike Montgomery's Golden Bears, whose best victory is against Georgia Tech at the DIRECTV Classic.

7. Stanford. The Cardinal have played four upper-level teams (Missouri, Minnesota, Belmont and North Carolina State) and lost each time. In other words, unless you count Northern Iowa, Johnny Dawkins' squad has yet to win a game that will impress the NCAA tournament committee.

8. Washington. The Huskies have won five of their past six games thanks, in large part, to C.J. Wilcox. Washington's leading scorer averages 19.2 points. Even more impressive are his figures from the Huskies' last two games: 21 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 blocks and 2 steals.

9. Arizona State. I still can't shake the image of the Sun Devils getting destroyed at home by DePaul. But hey, everyone has a bad night, right? There is still plenty to like about this team -- mainly point guard Jahii Carson (17.9 points, 5.3 assists), forward Jordan Bachynski (4.8 blocks) and small forward Carrick Felix (15.1 points, 7.5 rebounds).

10. Utah. The Utes avenged an early-season loss to SMU by defeating the Mustangs 62-53 Tuesday in Salt Lake City. Jarred DuBois averages team-highs in points (13.8) and assists (3.2). Jordan Loveridge averages 11.7 points and 7.2 rebounds.

11. Washington State. The Cougars have won five of their past six games. Brock Motum (20.4 points) and DaVonte Lacy (10.1) form a nice 1-2 punch. Going .500 in Pac-12 play might be enough to save Ken Bone's job.

12. USC. The Trojans have way too much talent to be playing as poorly as they did in Thursday's home loss to UC Irvine. Wake Forest transfer J.T. Terrell, who was supposed to be USC's savior, has been benched for his poor defensive effort.