Utah Men’s Basketball Looking Forward To Playing Together In NIT

Mar 19, 2024, 1:45 PM

SALT LAKE CITY – The Runnin’ Utes are looking forward to spending more time together playing in the NIT starting Tuesday, March 19.

While a lot of teams have now made it a practice to turn down invitations to other tournaments outside of the NCAA Tournament, Utah feels a little differently about it according to head coach Craig Smith.

In fact, shortly after their loss to Colorado in the Pac-12 Tournament, two of the Utes’ biggest stars in Branden Carlson and Gabe Madsen let it be known they were very interested in the possibly of playing in the NIT. A few days later, Smith relayed that wasn’t just Carlson and Madsen’s feelings either. It is how the whole team is feeling.


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The Runnin’ Utes Just Love Playing Basketball Together

Smith was asked how unusual it was to have a team so genuinely invested in continuing to play despite not making the big show that is the NCAA Tournament.

Smith acknowledged he’s coached similar types of teams in the past, and he’s coached teams that have had a very different take on postseason play as well.

“When you have it, you know it,” Smith said. “It’s really important in the recruiting process- not that the recruiting process is a perfect science, but it’s hard when you lose that game and there is so much that goes into it. These guys are together for five months, two months in the summertime, and not to mention we went to Spain. There is a lot that goes into it. It’s not a surprise to me that they kept mentioning they want to keep it going because they love being together.”


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Smith went on to talk about how rewarding that is as a coach to know an environment and experience has been provided that players don’t want to leave until they absolutely have to.

“I’m really proud of that,” Smith continued. “I know that my job is all- we have to win, we have to do certain- I understand that. But there is also a different level to this thing that as a coach, a big reason I’m into this is you hope you help guys have an amazing experience. You’re not coddling them. You’re not- none of that, like you’re demanding hard work, demanding sacrifice. All of that stuff and to come together is really rewarding. For our guys to say those things individually to me and I know they had a little get-together or meeting. It means something. They want to keep it going and that is a hard thing to do when your dream is to do something. You’ve just got to look at it in a different way. You’ve got to have a different mindset- there is a tournament to go try and win.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Utah Men’s Basketball Looking Forward To Playing Together In NIT