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Would an Arizona win over Utah qualify as an upset?

Salt Lake City Tribune


Salt Lake Tribune

When the Utah Utes and Arizona Wildcats take the floor Friday night in Miami for a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament, everybody will be wondering, “What are these guys doing here?”

The question will apply equally to each team.

The pairings of No. 5 and 12 seeds traditionally create intriguing games and opportunities for upsets, but Utah against Arizona is not your standard matchup, even in this neighborhood of the bracket.

The NCAA scripts almost everything involving the student-athletes in this event, and organizers might as well prepare this line for Friday’s winning team: “Nobody gave us a chance.”

Not the folks who said Arizona did not belong in the tournament, and not those who said the Wildcats would beat Utah – who, conveniently enough, are some of the same people.

It all comes down to one fundamental question: If a No. 12 seed wins as the betting favorite, can anybody call it an upset?

“We’ve been underdogs all year, really,” said Utah forward Shaun Green.

So it is that Utah’s staff is taping the commentary of analysts suggesting the Utes are in trouble, while the Wildcats undoubtedly are compiling quotes from others saying they do not belong in the field.

There’s even a theory that the committee charged with selection and seeding purposely paired Utah with Arizona, making its judgment in including the Wildcats appear sound when they win.

That’s in contrast to the suggestion that Utah’s No. 5 seed was a parting gift to athletic director Chris Hill, having completed his five-year committee term. Each school of thought is ridiculous, but do you have a better explanation for Utah’s No. 5 seed?

Having to play a team with Arizona’s talent reduces the reward for Utah’s No. 5 seed, but it still is remarkable how and why the Utes climbed to that level.

Other than maybe Boston College (No. 7) or Michigan (No. 10), no school was treated more favorably by the committee than Utah – except for having to travel to Miami, while Utah State stays close to home in Boise, Idaho.

Boylen figures the Utes were slotted between No. 6 and No. 8 before winning the Mountain West Conference tournament, which boosted them. Then again, all they did was beat the Nos. 7, 6 and 4 seeds in Las Vegas, while the other two co-champions were upset by other teams.

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