Utah Week: What To ExpectPosted by AMurawa on September 1st, 2012
This ol’ crystal ball of mine may be on the fritz, but we’ve got to put it through its paces one last time as we check on the immediate future for the Utah basketball program. After a week or running down the comings and goings over the offseason, we’re ready to guarantee improvement for the Utes – not necessarily going out on a huge limb for a team that won just six times last year. But, for more specifics on how it will all go down, read on.
Utah’s Leading Scorer – Glen Dean. There is enough evenly spaced talent on this Utah roster that predicting some balanced scoring atop the statistics is the easiest bet, with guys like Aaron Dotson, Jarred DuBois, Jordan Loveridge and perhaps leading returning scorer Jason Washburn all in the mix for double-figure scoring averages. But Dean will likely have the ball in his hands quite a bit and he’s got a history of using possessions and taking shots, something that Dotson and Washburn, for example, do not. And Dean has proven himself capable of not only creating offensive opportunities for others, but also for himself. He’s an efficient scorer who can connect from deep or get into the lane and score and he should be expected to average somewhere near the 12 or 13 points he averaged in his time at Eastern Washington. On this Utah team, those 12 or 13 points may be enough to narrowly edge out two or three other teammates for the leading scorer title.
Utah’s MVP – Jordan Loveridge. On Utah’s recent Brazil trip, not only was Loveridge the Utes’ leading scorer over the course of the four games, there has been talk that he was the team’s best player. A true combo forward capable of rebounding with the big boys and scoring in the lane or stepping outside and converting deep jumpers, Loveridge will help give the Utes an athleticism, coupled with an ability to create offensive opportunities from the frontcourt, that was largely missing from last year’s squad.
Utah’s Most Improved Returnee – David Foster. There aren’t a lot of returnees here to choose from, so we’ll go with Foster by default. First and foremost, Foster didn’t play last season due to injury, so we expect at least some improvement over that, but he could also be on track for improving upon his junior season two years back provided he can stay healthy. Foster used just 11.4% of Utah’s offensive possessions in that junior year, down from nearly 14% in his sophomore campaign. And that’s more of what Krystkowiak needs from him. Foster is never going to be a guy who is going to go out and score in double-figures in every game over the course of the month, but he’s capable of getting tip-ins and putbacks on the offensive glass and occasionally producing an ugly but efficient offensive move. At the very least, Foster absolutely needs to cut back on the turnovers on nearly 30% of his used possessions. And, really, given that the only other returnees are Jason Washburn (from whom we expect much the same as his 2011-12 junior campaign) and Cedric Martin (who could see his minutes cut with the influx of veteran guards), Foster is the only logical choice.
Utah’s Conference Record/ Finish – 4-14, 12th place. While the Utes figure to be much more competitive this season (last year they lost 10 conference games by double-figures and a couple by 40 or more), they’re still the odds-on favorite to land in the basement. Last year the Utes were 3-15 in a terrible conference, good for 11th place; this year the Pac-12 should be much improved, so even a one-win improvement in the record may not be enough to even replicate that finish. And, frankly, looking up and down the Ute schedule it is hard to figure out where those four wins are supposed to come from. Just looking at their home schedule – UCLA, USC, Cal, Stanford, Colorado, ASU, Zona, OSU, Oregon – where are the wins there? Maybe they sneak up on SC early and OSU late, take care of ASU and one of the Bay Area schools, but there is an awful slim margin of error in the Pac-12 this year and even a significantly improved roster may not translate to significantly inflated win totals, at least in conference play.