Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Utes favor up-tempo pace despite lack of depth

SALT LAKE CITY – Forward Carlon Brown grew all excited for a moment, talking about how the Utah Utes wanted to try to run at Arizona and wear out the Wildcats in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, knowing they don’t have much depth and use only six or seven players.

Then, he was reminded – the Utes use only six or seven players, too.

“Yeah, I forgot about that for a second,” he said with a smile.

But Brown said the Utes still hope to use what they believe is superior fitness earned at altitude to wear down the Wildcats at American Airlines Arena in Miami on Friday.

Coach Jim Boylen said that foul trouble could play a big role for both teams, especially if it involves Utah’s Luke Nevill or Arizona’s Jordan Hill inside.

“It’s a concern for both teams,” Boylen said. “Figuring out how the game will be refereed in the first five minutes I think is very important. The referees are under pressure, too. They’re one-and-done, if they don’t perform well. I think that puts a different skew on it.”

History lesson

The Utes have never been a No. 5 seed in an NCAA Tournament, but they were a No. 6 the last time they qualified four years ago and made a run to the Sweet 16 by beating No. 11 UTEP and No. 3 Oklahoma.

The Utes are 15-7 when seeded higher than they are now – they were seeded No. 2, 3 and 4 several times during the glory days of the 1990s – but only 6-9 when seeded lower.

Unwitting endorsement

Interim UA coach Russ Pennell said he believed that scheduling good teams such as Kansas and Gonzaga helped the Wildcats reach the tournament, and in so doing endorsed Boylen’s tough scheduling philosophy – even if it means playing on the road.

“You have to play folks in the nonconference,” Pennell said. “And I know the argument is this: A lot of the midmajors say, ‘Well, we can’t get the big boys to play us.’ That’s not true. You can’t get the big boys to play you at your place.

“You’re going to have to go to them. And that’s one of the things that Mark Few figured out at Gonzaga a few years ago. And granted, they have a very good team, but they take on all comers . . . That did carry the ball for us.”

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