Kyle Ringo
Kyle Ringo
Utah is no longer a pushover on the basketball court and that's a good thing for Colorado.

You might be wondering. How could that be?

Bear with me here.

No one in black, silver and gold will ever hope for too much success for the Utes. They are a Pac-12 Conference foe the Buffs must play at least twice a year after all. But the Utes enjoying just enough success on the basketball court serves CU well.

In a conference that uses travel partners, you don't want your partner to be a layup for opponents and the worst team in the league as the Utes have been recently.

Every team in the Pac-12 plays nine home games and nine road games in the 18-game conference schedule. That means four of CU's nine home games are going to be against teams that played at Utah before coming to Boulder.

When the Utes were uncompetitive last season, it meant opponents didn't have to work nearly as hard as they do now to earn victories in Salt Lake City. That allowed them to be that much more rested and ready when they arrived in Boulder.

The Buffs would much rather have those four opponents who come here each year after a game in Utah tired and sore and sick of gasping for air at altitude.

The unfortunate part of Utah improving is the Buffs are going to lose to the Utes on occasion as they did on Feb. 2 at Utah and as they were in danger of doing for much of the game Thursday before holding on for a 60-50 victory. But losing is a possibility every night in the Pac-12.

Another downside is losing some recruiting battles to the Utes at times. One example of that was on display on Sox Walseth Court on Thursday night. Utah freshman forward Jordan Loveridge led the Utes in scoring and rebounding and looked awfully good doing it.

Buffs coach Tad Boyle recruited Loveridge last year. It was always going to be a challenge to get him to come to Boulder and away from the flagship school in his home state. He is from West Jordan, Utah. But Boyle saw an opportunity knowing the Utes have been struggling badly in recent years and he went after him. Loveridge ultimately decided to stay home and help coach Larry Krystkowiak rebuild.

Boyle and Krystkowiakare friends. They occasionally have breakfast on the road when their teams stay at the same hotel in Pac-12 stops such as Los Angeles or the Bay Area. Boyle has been in Krystowiak's shoes rebuilding. In fact, when Boyle was at Northern Colorado, prior to coming to CU, he wasn't so much rebuilding as building from scratch. Regardless, the two have shared similar experiences

I wondered if Boyle wishes his friend was coaching elsewhere these days instead of remaking the Utes.

"When the ball goes up all that stuff goes out the window," Boyle said. "He wants to beat us and we want to beat him.

"The thing I appreciate about Larry is that he's got a good perspective on coaching."

Utah arrived at the events center as the best defensive team in the conference, allowing teams to make just 39 percent of their shots and score just 62 points a game. The Utes are also good at sharing the ball offensively. They lead the league in free throw shooting and are second in 3-point shooting.

In another year or two, assuming both Boyle and Krystkowiak remain with their respective programs, these Colorado-Utah games will be fun to watch, maybe some of the most fun in the Pac-12. And in the coming years, CU will be able to count on at least four conference opponents coming to Boulder weary from battling the Utes.

The Buffs will appreciate the assist.

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