Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
A once-proud program fallen on hard times, last year's season was one to forget for the Runnin' Utes. Stumblin', crawlin', or triaged was a more appropriate description for their 6-25 campaign under new coach Larry Krystkowiak. Like all coaches who are tired of having their lunch money taken, Coach K-lite went looking for help. He couldn't locate the A-team. However, he did bring in several JUCOs and landed an ESPN Top 100 power forward. The results (9-8, 1-5 conference) have been...mixed so far. In a battle for the bottom, the Utes came up short against both Wazzu and USC in the Pac-12 Timmay & Jimmay division. However, Utah just broke through for their first conference road win with a big upset over the Washington Huskies. Aberration? Or have the Utes turned a corner?
Utah plays at the slowest tempo in the conference and doesn't like to take risks. They don't shoot the ball particularly well, nor do they crash the offensive boards. Although they're a surprisingly decent free-throw shooting team, they're last in the league with regards to attempts. Defensively, they don't force a lot of turnovers and will pack it in at the expense of giving up open threes.
Despite Utah's struggles, it says something about our own season that KenPom only predicts a 1-point Cal win at 45% certainty. Like most teams, they're much tougher at home than on the road. Three of their conference losses were tight ones; 4 points to UCLA, 3 points to Zona, and a 1 point OT loss to ASU.
As the Washington Huskies aptly demonstrated, the new-look Utes have enough talent to cause some trouble. If we don't pack our game along with our bags to Salt Lake, our middle-of-the-Pac membership could get ceded to the cellar.
C Jason Washburn(Sr), 6'10, 242 lbs, 10.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.9 bpg
F Jordan Loveridge(Fr), 6'6, 230 lbs, 12.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg
G Jarred DuBois(Gs), 6'3, 172 lbs, 13.3 ppg, 3.2 ppg, 3.6 apg
G Cedric Martin(Sr), 6'4, 203 lbs, 4.8 ppg, 2.7 apg
G Glen Dean(Jr), 5'10, 170 lbs, 7.4 ppg, 2.8 apg
Swingman Jared DuBois is a graduate student transfer from Loyala Marymount. He leads them in scoring from the wing and is their best 3-point shooter.(41% 3FG) You can't just sit on his outside shot, however, because he's one of the few Utes who will slash and get himself to the foul line. True frosh Jordan Loveridge is the highest rated recruit for Utah in the past decade. Although a bit under-sized, he does most of his work inside. Jason Washburn was last year's leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker. His numbers are down a bit this year thanks to the emergence of DuBois and Loveridge. He's still dangerous (60% FG) if you let him catch the ball near the paint. Glen Dean was brought in from Eastern Washington to run the point. He was the Big Sky freshmen of the year and earned all-conference honors as a soph. He's their other threat from deep. Returning starter Cedric Martin doesn't shoot much, but does facilitate the offense with veteran leadership. True frosh Brandon Taylor was the spark plug against UW with 19 off the bench.
Keys to the Game:
1) Control the tempo.
When Utah can play a game in the 50's or low 60's, they've managed to keep it close. If the other team can score 70+? Not so much.
2) Fundamentals, Intelligence, and Toughness.
It was another scathing call-out from Monty after last game's debacle. Shot selection. Boxing out. Fighting through screens. Closing out on shooters without jumping.
3) Building blocks.
When searching for the faintest of silver linings, it appeared that Solo/Kravish are starting to find their shooting touch inside. Justin Cobbs finally came alive and might be out of his slump. It's pretty clear that any sort of post-season play is pretty darn questionable right now. So let's focus on growing as a team and playing better basketball.
Game Time: Thursday, January 24th, 5:30(PST)
TV: Pac-12 Networks