Men's Basketball - Q+A with Block U about the Utah Game

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

We're a curious bunch here and so we asked Block U (SBNation's Utah site) if they'd answer some questions about their Men's basketball team. And they said yes! Thanks to JazzyUte for these great answers!

1. What signs of progress have you seen from Utah in the past few seasons?

JazzyUte: Well the biggest progression we’ve seen is in their record – as this year’s Utes have more wins than last year’s team did throughout all of last season. Utah also has two road wins, one in preseason and another in conference play, something they couldn’t do at all last season. So, in that regard, there has been progress ... albeit, at times, very slow progress.

2. Lots of new faces and talent in Utah this year. Are you optimistic for the future, or is this more of the same?

JazzyUte: I’ll go with cautiously optimistic. I think there is a foundation forming, but of course, at a certain point, you’re going to have to develop on that foundation. I was hoping this season would provide that building, but maybe I underestimated the process a bit. The Utes are still a hit-or-miss team and until they can become more consistent, it’s hard to not let past doubts creep in when looking at the future.

3. Do you feel your coach is getting the most out of his players?

JazzyUte: I think he is. But then, you know, when you’re winning 6 or 9 games a season, you’re not quite certain whether it’s talent or coaching. Last year, most agreed the talent level was not at where it needed to be to be even average in the Pac-12, and it did feel like a one-win team, which eventually turned into a six-win one. So, in that regard, you do lean on the idea of Larry Krystkowiak getting the most out of his talent.

4. What are your team's strengths and weaknesses?

JazzyUte: Utah has been really good at dictating the pace this season and it’s put them in a lot of close games – like against BYU on the road or Arizona in Tucson. They weren’t able to close out those games, but the fact they were in ‘em when, on talent and experience, both teams had an overwhelming advantage, has proven a huge strength. Utah’s weakness is the exact opposite of that slow pace they dictate – they can’t run. They tried against USC, and Washington State, to an extent, and were essentially run out of the gym. They’ve also struggled in close games, with most their losses coming by a handful of points, while also struggling when their shooting isn’t all that spectacular. In Saturday’s huge road win, the first-ever in the Pac-12 for the Runnin’ Utes, they shot 60% and in their other major victory, over Boise State, 67.5%. That’s not going to happen in most games and when it’s the opposite, while the games seem to remain close, Utah is having problems eking out victories. For a time, after they barely lost to UCLA, it looked like the Runnin’ Utes wound literally lose every Pac-12 game by like an average of 3 points. Of course, they collapsed against USC and Washington State ... which then leads to another weakness: this team has yet to prove they’re consistent. That’s why this home swing is really important. Three home games, all three potential victories ... and a chance at some huge momentum and consistency.

5. Who is the Utah player on O that Cal fans should know about?

JazzyUte: I’m going to go with Jason Washburn, Utah’s center. He has had a pretty solid senior season for the Utes and can be a fairly difficult player to defend. In the Washington game, he finished with 18 points on 8-11 shooting. But there really isn’t one amazing standout player. On talent, though, that might also be true freshman Jordan Loveridge, who, while still unpolished, can still be a potent offensive threat. He averages a shade under 13 points per game, and scored 17 last week in Utah’s win over the Huskies.

6. Who is the Utah player on D that Cal fans should know about?

JazzyUte: Prior to the Washington game, Cedric Martin was effective in shutting down some pretty big stars – from Tyler Hawes at BYU to UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad. I still believe he’s the best defensive player Utah has – but don’t sleep on Glen Dean, who guarded Washington’s C.J. Wilcox and held him scoreless in the first half. Yet I think the senior, Martin, gets the edge.

7. What does Utah have to do to win this game?

JazzyUte: I think Utah has to dictate the flow as they’ve done in some of their other bigger games. Cal is a beatable team, especially when on the road, and the Utes have to take advantage of it. It helps hitting shots, of course, but ultimately, I expect this game to be similar to most of Utah’s conference games this season – close and whomever steps up in the final minutes or so should win. In that regard, Utah is going to have to step up, since, as I’ve mentioned, they have struggled this season in close contests.

8. Who do you want to punch in the face?

JazzyUte: I’m feelin’ good this week. So, no one!

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