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Utes enter Big 12 Looking to Regain some Basketball Success

Utah is set to join the Big 12.

The Utah Utes enter Big 12 basketball this coming season and will be looking to regain some of that basketball success they’ve had off and on throughout the years.  The Utah Utes’ time in the Pac-12 was a fairly short one, as they only entered the conference back in 2011.  Even before their time in the Pac-12 though, this was a successful basketball program. Let’s look back at some of their history.

Utes Enter Big 12 Looking to Regain Some Basketball Success

Before the Utes took the move to the Pac-12, they were members of the Mountain States Conference until the early 1960’s. Then, they were members of the WAC. They won 12 conference titles in the WAC. The Utes moved to the Mountain West in 2000 and won the first two conference titles. They played in the Mountain West until their move to the Pac-12. They did not win a regular season conference title in the Pac-12. The last time they won a conference title was in 2009.

One National Championship

It’s been 70 seasons, but the Utah Utes were national champions back in 1944. At that point, the NCAA Tournament just needed three wins to take it down, but they did the job. Utah downed Missouri and Iowa State, before getting a 42-40 win in overtime over Dartmouth. Since that national title, the program has been back to the title game once, which was in 1998. The Utes have been to four final fours in program history, and six times to the Elite 8.  The Utes are currently in an NCAA Tournament drought, as they have not been dancing since the 2016 season. That year they beat Fresno State in the first round and were blown out by Gonzaga in the second round. In 2015, they advanced to the Sweet 16 and lost to Duke.

The recent National title game team for Utah won five tournament games. First, Utah downed San Francisco by 17. The second round was a six-point thriller over Arkansas. In the Sweet 16, the Utes downed West Virginia. It was Arizona that was in their way in the Elite Eight, but the Utes beat them by 25 points. Once Utah got to the Final Four, their first game was against North Carolina. Utah won 65-59 over the Tar Heels. That set up a matchup against Kentucky, where they eventually lost 78-69. All time, Utah is 38-32 in the NCAA Tournament.

Majerus Leads Long List of Head Coaches for Utah

That team was led by the legendary Rick Majerus. Majerus is easily the all-time winningest coach in Utah basketball history. He started there in 1989 and won over 320 games for the Utes.  Majerus led the Utah basketball team to the Sweet 16 four times, including two trips to the Elite 8 and of course a trip to the Final Four. Since his time, there have been several guys in and out of the post. Ray Giacoletti was next and went 54-40 in three seasons, and 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament.  Jim Boylen was after him and went 69-60 from 2007 through the 2011 season.  Boylen had come to Utah after spending years as an assistant with Tom Izzo at Michigan State.  He was fired after back-to-back losing seasons. Larry Krystowiak had some success with the Utes from the 2011-2021 seasons. He eventually won 137 games.  Before that Krystowiak was a coach with the Milwaukee Bucks and New Jersey Nets. Now, Craig Smith starts his four seasons at the helm and is 50-50 in his career.

Former Utah Utes

The Utah Utes have seven players with retired jerseys in program history. The most recent was big man Andrew Bogut. He played for the Utes during the 2003-2005 seasons. Bogut scored over 1000 points in his career but did it in two seasons. He was named the 2004-2005 National Player of the Year by ESPN. He went on to be the first overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite that, the most popular former Utah Utes baller is Keith Van Horn. Van Horn was an elite player for the Utes from the 1993-1997 seasons. He played in 122 games and scored more than 20 points per game for the Utes. He also was able to grab 8.8 rebounds during his time as well. Van Horn went on to be the second overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft. 

During their time in the Pac-12, the Utes had one named player of the year. That was Jakob Poeltl during the 2016 season. Poeltl also was a first-round draft pick. The Toronto Raptors took him 9th overall in the 2016 draft. Lastly, Andre Miller was a great Utah Ute as well. Miller was part of the team that went to the national title game. In the West Regional Finals win against Arizona, he scored 18 points, ripped down 14 rebounds, and dished out 13 assists. It was the fourth triple-double in NCAA Tournament history. After his terrific career as a member of the Utah Utes, he was drafted 8th overall in the 1999 draft. Other notable names during the Utah Utes basketball history include Luke Nevill, Britton Johnsen, Alex Jensen, Josh Grant, Pace Mannion, Tom Chambers, and Arnie Ferrin.

What to Expect in Big 12

It will certainly be a new animal for the Utah Utes when they enter into the Big 12. They will certainly have to start new rivalries. Utah’s biggest rival heading into the Big 12 will be Brigham Young. The Cougars and Utes have played 149 times in school history. Utah is 78-71 in those meetings. Next most is Arizona, and they have met 72 times. The Wildcats have gotten the best of the Utes; 40-32. Arizona State and Colorado of course are other teams the Utes have played a bunch. Utah is 36-28 against the Sun Devils and 21-20 against the Buffaloes. Other traditional Big 12 teams such as Kansas, Baylor, and Texas Tech have very minimal history against the Utes.

Things will be fun to follow in Salt Lake City for the Utes. As the Utes enter Big 12 basketball play looking to gain some of that previous basketball success, they are going to be challenged along the way, as the Big 12 is once again set to be one of the best leagues in the country.


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