MARCH MADNESS RETURNS

(Photo Credit: Brent Uberty, The Daily Utah Chronicle)

The Pac-12 once again descended upon the Mojave flower that is Las Vegas, where the conference’s bold and gallant conquistadors of the parquet floor dueled to determine who would drink from the chalice of champions and take their place atop the peak of basketball supremacy in the majestic West. Or, something Bill Walton says.

Despite the grand praise from the Pac-12’s marquee color commentator, and the lovely setting of the Strip’s emerald gem, the MGM Grand, the Runnin’ Utes came up short in its bid for a tournament title.

Game one was all cheers. After trailing at the break, Utah surged in the second half to outscore Stanford, 46-17, and recorded an 80-56 victory.

Game two was the weekend’s real contest, pitting No. 2 versus No. 3 in a semifinal matchup that was arguably the most exciting game of the entire tournament. Two-seeded Oregon wound up winning on a deep 3-pointer from Pac-12 player of the year Joseph Young with 1.1 seconds remaining. This after the U’s own player of the year candidate and all-conference selection, Delon Wright, hit two clutch free throws to tie the game with 7.2 seconds left. The regular season champions, Arizona Wildcats, ended up winning it all, dismantling the Ducks Saturday night, 80-52.

The good news is that the Pac-12 tourney didn’t matter much for the Runnin’ Utes, who were widely considered to be a lock to make the one that does matter, the NCAA tournament, a.k.a., the Big Dance. Coach Larry Krystkowiak and his players received word Sunday that they secured a No. 5 seed and will be heading to Portland to face 12-seed Stephen F. Austin. Check out the reaction when their dance card was read:

Regardless of results, the weekend festivity is a great chance for alumni, students and fans of all the Pac-12 schools to gather and socialize, and to celebrate their seasons with all there is to enjoy in Vegas in the spring. Poolside parties, golf and even some spring training baseball bracketed the good times of top-notch basketball. And, in the Utah Alumni Association’s case, the pleasure was productive as approximately $3,000 was raised on the links during its outing at the Las Vegas National Golf Course.

For those not headed to Portland for the Runnin’ Utes’ first-round tourney tilt, you can tune in Thursday night on truTV. Tip time is scheduled for 5:27 p.m. MT. Go Utes!