When last we saw the beleaguered Limpin' Utes(5-20, 2-11), it was on the receiving end of one of their worst ugly-stick beatings of the year. Holding the business end of said 81-45 beating was none other than your sturdy Golden Bears.
Some teams respond from a serious beat-down with renewed fire and intensity. Others curl into the fetal position and wait until the season is over. Or just to keep things interesting, your new head coach could dismiss the team's leading scorer and lone returning starter, Josh Watkins, for a variety of disciplinary reasons. (One of them rumored to be sleeping in class.)
Although the Utes continue to give great effort on the defensive glass and stay committed to their slow-tempo, defensive style, the record book has been unkind. It's been a 1 and 8 stretch, including seven losses in a row. They are eleventh in the conference in most of the significant offensive and defensive metrics.
But before you circle this one up as a 'W,' keep in mind that Utah plays significantly better at home, even if they are apparently a lost cause on the road. Most recently, they took the contending Colorado Buffaloes down to the wire in a physical, defensive struggle.
After the jump, personnel and match-ups:
C Jason Washburn(Jr), 6'10, 244 lbs, 10.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg
F Dijon Farr,(Jr), 6'6, 219 lbs, 6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg
G Chris Hines(Jr), 6'0, 185 lbs, 9.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg
G Cedric Martin(Jr), 6'4, 200 lbs, 7.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg
G Kareem Storey, (Fr), 5'10, 184 lbs, 4.9 ppg, 3.2 apg
The biggest change by far is exchanging leading scorer and senior leader Josh Watkins, (15.6 ppg, 4.8 apg) for true freshman Kareem Storey. Without Watkins to dominate the ball, the Utes often appear to lack an offensive identity. They've been forced to rely on JC transfers Farr and Martin for more scoring. After struggling earlier in the year ((27% FG) with his shot, Chris Hines has picked up his game as a designated 3-point threat. Their most consistent offensive threat is big man Jason Washburn...and he's best known for being inconsistent.
1) Strong Bench Play
With all due respect to the Utes, the Bears need to look ahead to the big Sunday show-down with Colorado. The trick is to not look or play like we're actually doing this, however. Similar to the rotations we used against ASU and our last game against Utah, I would expect Monty to go to his bench early and give some of the reserves extended run. Thurman might match up better against Washburn than Kravish. And a true frosh point guard is someone that either Smith or Murray ought to feel comfortable checking.
2) Create Offense with Defense
The Utes like to slow it down and will try to make this an ugly grinder. One of the quickest ways to blow the doors off this one is to take advantage of their shakiness at point. Again, this is an area where Monty might insert Smith or Murray early and let them use their quickness to really pressure the ball.
Tip-Off: 6pm PST
TV: None (sigh)
Radio: 910 KNEW