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For the first time in 15 years, Utah basketball is ranked in the AP top 10.
The Runnin' Utes (9-2) played only one game last week, a win over South Dakota State, but survived the holiday ambush that befell many of the other nation's elite. With Texas, Kansas and Washington among those who dropped, Utah ascended to No. 10.
It's the first time Utah has been in the top 10 since the end of the 1998-99 season, when the Utes finished the year at No. 6 after a 28-5 record and reaching the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.
In Larry Krystkowiak's fourth season, Utah has claimed big non-conference wins over Wichita State and BYU. A win over UNLV spiked in value after the Runnin' Rebels topped Arizona, which dropped to No. 8 this week.
Defense is propelling Utah's success so far. The Utes are No. 16 nationally in field goal percentage defense (36.4 percent), and No. 24 in scoring defense (57.6 ppg). They also rank No. 32 in total blocks (64), led by the Pac-12's third-leading shot blocker Jakob Poeltl.
Washington was the only other Pac-12 team that checked in the AP top 25, dropping to No. 21 after a loss to Stony Brook.
The Utes have three games this week, all at the Huntsman Center. They play Carroll College (Mont.) on Tuesday before kicking off Pac-12 play with USC on Friday and UCLA on Sunday.