If you had to draw up an action plan for transitioning into a new conference, start with the Utah Utes off-season and do the exact opposite. Besides firing their head coach, they weren't able to convince most of their veteran players to stay and ended up losing five of their six top scorers. New Coach Larry Krystkowiak is best known for having people misspell his last name and also flaming out as coach for the Milwaukee Bucks.
After going 3-10 in pre-conference play, the Utes opened with a split at home against the Washington schools. Perhaps more impressive than their overtime win over Wazzu was the fact that they hung around and dropped a close one to UW, 57-53.
As the lone holdover from the playing rotation last year, Josh Watkins is the Utes go-to player. He's not much of an outside shooter (22% 3FG, 68% FT), but he is adept at using his strength to bullrush his way to the tin. I'd expect Jorge will have something to say about that. Farr is a JC transfer who provides some scoring punch down low and helps out on the boards. Martin is another JC transfer wing that was struggling with his shot (34% FG) but is coming on of late. That's more than can be said for Hines (28.2% FG) who should probably be passing on shots as well as the ketchup. Washburn has been solid in the post for them. He's by far their best free throw shooter and does a good job finishing when he has the chance. For his size, he's only an average rebounder and doesn't have the hops to be a significant shot-blocking presence.
1) Set the tone early
Although Utah has historically had a strong basketball program, those days are long past. This team doesn't shoot or rebound well, and hasn't been playing particularly good ball. To their credit, they take care of the ball and don't give up. If you let them back in the game, they'll make runs at you.
2) Develop the bench
This game is a great opportunity to get more experience for Behrens, Rossi, Thurman, Bak, and Powers. As the attrition-game against OSU showed, we need stronger contributions from our reserves if we're going to have the staying power to overcome foul trouble against the tougher teams.
Tip Off: Saturday, 1/14/12 - 7:30 PT
TV: Comcast SportsNet California
Radio: KNEW 910 AM
Online: Post streams below