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How they got to the Sweet 16: Utah

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Four years after the Utah Utes basketball program won just six games in Larry Krystkowiak’s first season as coach, the Utes are headed to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16, the program’s first since 2005.

Star of the first weekend: Although it is guards Delon Wright and Brandon Taylor who often get a lot of attention, it was center Jakob Poeltl (pronounced: per-tull, rhyming with turtle) who was huge for Utah this weekend. In the first game, Poeltl tallied a team-high 18 points, eight boards and five blocks. Although his numbers were slightly less impressive Saturday (12 points, one rebound, one block), his biggest contribution came on the defensive side of the ball, where he held Georgetown’s Josh Smith to just eight points and six boards, despite being 115 pounds lighter than Smith. Both Poeltl and Dallin Bachynski (who came in for Poeltl when he got into foul trouble) kept Smith in check and gave the Utes an offensive and defensive presence in the paint, which allowed Taylor and Jordan Loveridge to get hot from long range.

The big moment in Portland: For most of the game, the Utes and Hoyas traded baskets. At the 7:44 mark, after a Smith tip-in, it was all tied up at 51. But a Poeltl dunk sparked the Utes as they closed out the game on a 24-13 run, with six different players contributing to that scoring streak. Dakarai Tucker scored eight of his 10 points in that final stretch to help the Utes ensure a trip to the Sweet 16.

What’s next?: The Utes head to Houston to take on Duke, which beat San Diego State on Sunday. The Utes will need to focus on their defense, as the Blue Devils are the fourth-highest-scoring team in the nation (80.6 points per game), but Utah is a team that actually has the size to deal with Jahlil Okafor. If Taylor can keep shooting well from the outside and Wright can create for himself and others, the Utes could be a very dangerous team in the South Region.