Pac-12 Team Preview: Utah Utes

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 24th, 2013

We continue unveiling our team-by-team breakdowns, in roughly the reverse order of where we expect these teams to finish in the conference standings.

Utah Utes

Strengths. Balance. The fact that it is hard to pin down one specific strength for this team should not be taken as a strike against the squad. As opposed to Utah teams in recent years, there are a lot of solid options here, and on both ends of the court. Sure, sophomore forward Jordan Loveridge is the kingpin here, an inside/outside threat who is just scratching the surface of his potential, but this Ute team has a lot of good things going for it. They have size, with the ability to start a frontline of a couple 6’10″ big guys alongside the 6’”7 Loveridge, and a 6’5″ man running the point. They have a healthy contingent of player capable of knocking down shots from three, alongside a group of players who will be most comfortable in the paint. And in the backcourt, they have a group of three players in particular – Delon Wright, Brandon Taylor, and Parker Van Dyke – who can mix and match between themselves at the two-guard spots. When all is said and done, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see maybe six players average better than eight points per game for Larry Krystkowiak.

Jordan Loveridge Is The Kingpin For An Undertalented Utah Squad

Jordan Loveridge Is The Kingpin For An Undertalented Utah Squad

Weaknesses. The biggest strike against this squad is inexperience. There isn’t a guy on this roster who has more than a single season of experience in a Ute uniform. Given the rampant roster turnover in Salt Lake City in recent years, this shouldn’t be a surprise, but it does limit the total upside from the program. On the plus side, there are quite a few older players on this team, either transfers or guys who have taken their LDS mission, meaning there are eight guys on the roster old than 20 – some of them significantly older.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.22.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 22nd, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Instead of an exhibition game or two, the USC‘s men’s and women’s teams announced yesterday they’ll be hosting the “Trojan Tipoff” on Sunday morning. The day will open with a FanFest, which includes a meet and greet with Trojan coaches and players, but the highlight will be the intrasquad scrimmages that come later in the day. It will be the first glance at the new-look Trojans, now under the guidance of uber-promoter Andy Enfield. Hopefully SC provides some type of streaming for the event for us out-of-towners interested to see how Dunk City looks on the west coast. The men’s team opens the season November 8 at Utah State, in a game to be televised by CBS Sports Network.
  2. Across town, the fallout continues from Enfield’s “If you want to play slow, go to UCLA” comment made last week. First year Bruins head coach Steve Alford issued another denial to the quote on Monday, pointing out that his teams at New Mexico were always first or second in scoring in the Mountain West. He also said that while there are no problems between he and the other new coach in Los Angeles, he understands that there is a rivalry between the schools. Before the session was over, however, Alford couldn’t resist getting a low-key shot in at the Trojans. “You look at history and tradition, UCLA and USC, there is quite a bit of difference there.”
  3. Some leftovers from Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day, as Arizona Desert Swarm sat down with junior guard Nick Johnson recently. Johnson discusses playing in the backcourt with point guard T.J. McConnell, how he handles game-by-game expectations, and the Wildcats’ hidden shooting ability at the three and four spots, among other things. Johnson averaged 11.5 PPG for Arizona last season in over 30 MPG, and if the Wildcats are to live up to the expectations being put upon them in the preseason, he will need to contribute double figures again. Even more important will be his perimeter defense, which gave a huge lift to Arizona at times last season. His pressure and ability to get his team out on breaks energized things whenever the offense struggled. Johnson and the Cats will open regular season play against Cal Poly on November 8.
  4. This is the year that Larry Krystowiak will need to show some of the strides Utah has been making, this being his third year at the helm and the Utes’ third in the Pac-12. He thought that the best way to get started on that this offseason was to get in better shape, and the Deseret News reports that his team has more or less accomplished that. Post players Jordan Loveridge, Renan Lenz, and Marko Kovacevic have lost about 20 pounds each as Krystowiak is looking for more active players inside. As far as the guards go, Brandon Taylor and Parker Van Dyke are no longer two of the smallest players in the conference, with each gaining around 15 pounds over the summer. On the court, Krystowiak reports that the Utes are having “spirited and competitive” practices so far this fall. They will have their annual “Night with the Runnin’ Utes” on Wednesday evening of this week.
  5. Tad Boyle‘s Colorado team has developed a reputation as one of the best teams in the league at taking charges, and Boyle worries that the Buffaloes will be at a disadvantage this season with the NCAA’s new rules on how to interpret the violation. Bobby Dibler, the Pac-12’s new coordinator of men’s basketball officiating, broke down the guidelines at Media Day last week and said that he expects more blocks to be called this season. The modification states that once an offensive player has started an upward motion with the ball, the defender can not move into that player’s path or it will be a blocking foul. This is a welcome change after many players had became masters of sliding under a player already in mid-air to draw the charge. As probably expected, Boyle is not a big fan: “We’re going to have to adjust, but I don’t like the rule.”
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Pac-12 M5: 10.18.13 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 18th, 2013

  1. pac12_morning5Pac-12 Media Day is in the books, meaning, if nothing else, we’re another day closer to actual games. We’ll have some info in the coming days from there, but for this morning, Percy Allen of The Seattle Times has a rundown of the highlights of each speaker’s time in the spotlight. As for the media poll, there were no real surprises as Arizona received 21 of the 23 first-place votes while UCLA and Colorado each grabbed one on the way to second and third place, respectively. Oregon, California, and Stanford rounded out the upper half of the league, with Arizona State not far behind.
  2. In order for Arizona State to break into that upper-half of the league (they finished in a four-way tie for sixth last season), they’re going to need Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall to be a scoring threat on the wing. But unfortunately for Marshall and the Sun Devils, the senior has been sidelined with a case of coccidiodomycosis, or “Valley fever”, for the past week. With point guard Jahii Carson having previously missed some time with leg problems, what could be a dynamic backcourt duo for the Sun Devils have not had quite as much time to get used to each other as would have been ideal.
  3. While there is no doubt that Carson is the Sun Devils’ point guard and floor general, head coach Herb Sendek recently talked up the idea of junior forward Jonathan Gilling as the team’s quarterback because of his ability to get everybody on the floor operating in unison. While he’s not the kind of guy who is going to bring the ball up court or rack up a lot of assists, Gilling is a guy who, according to his coach, gets the most out of his ability while flying under the radar.
  4. Meanwhile, Utah’s backcourt is expected to take on an unconventional look this season, what with 6’5 junior college transfer Delon Wright expected to man the point, while much smaller sophomore Brandon Taylor is likely to play the shooting guard spot, despite his just 5’10 frame. In the offseason it was unknown exactly who would step up and take over the point guard spot for the Utes this year, but word is that Wright has looked impressive in his time in practice and is the heavy favorite to play the lead guard. Meanwhile Taylor, who spent his fair share of time as the lead guard last year for the Utes, has been one of the team’s best shooter and could be expected to make a bigger impact playing off of the ball.
  5. And, since we are back to doing our regular Morning Fives, now is the time of the year where Connor and I re-spark our regular weekly pick ‘em contest. So far this year (and you will have to take our word on this), Connor and I have battled it out elsewhere to the tune of a 40-12 record for myself and a 42-10 record for my opponent (although, in my defense, we would have been tied at 41-11 if Washington had completed their final drive at Stanford). With the UCLA/Stanford match-up clearly the game of the week, we will try to pick a score on that game, while just picking winners everywhere else. pickem_firstweek
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Utah on the Slow Road Back to Basketball Relevance

Posted by AMurawa on October 10th, 2013

If you’re strictly a fan of Pac-12 basketball, you may not know it, but Utah basketball has a long and storied tradition. There are the 36 regular season conference championships, 27 NCAA Tournament appearances, 15 Sweet Sixteens, four Final Fours and even the 1944 national championship. Names like Keith Van Horn, Andre Miller, Tom Chambers, Andrew Bogut and Mike Newlin have gone on to enjoy significant success in the NBA. The thing is, all of that occurred prior to the Utes accepting its membership in the Pac-12. Since they’ve been in our fair conference, the team has gone a combined 21-43 overall and 8-28 in conference play in two seasons. But, rest assured, Utah basketball will be back sooner rather than later.

You May Not Remember It, But Utah Has Quite A History Of Basketball Success (Getty Images)

You May Not Remember It, But Utah Has Quite A History Of Basketball Success (Getty Images)

The beginning of Larry Krystowiak’s reign as the head coach of the Utah basketball program coincides neatly with their inaugural season in the Pac-12, but unfortunately it also coincided with a need for a nearly complete roster overhaul. In the offseason before previous head coach Jim Boylen’s final season, four players (including names like Carlon Brown and Marshall Henderson) transferred out of the program. In the aftermath of the Boylen-to-Krystkowiak transition, seven more players left Salt Lake City. After Krystkowiak’s first season, six additional players transferred and still another headed off on an LDS mission. And this past offseason, continuing the trend, three more players alighted, all of whom had only played one year at Utah. What is left is a roster that has only one player who has been in the Utah program longer than a year. And that guy – 6’10″ redshirt sophomore Jeremy Olsen – has spent as many years away from the program on an LDS mission as he has in Salt Lake City.

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Utah Post-Mortem

Posted by PBaruh on April 26th, 2013

Now that we are officially in the offseason, it’s time to take a look back and evaluate each team’s 2012-13 performance. Here’s a look at Utah.

What Went Right

After winning only three games in its inaugural 2011-12 Pac-12 season, Utah improved by finishing the season on a high note in beating both Oregon State and Oregon to go 5-13 in conference play. The Utes were still one of the worst teams in the Pac-12, but they upset Washington on the road and Colorado at home. They also scared Arizona twice as they lost to the Wildcats only by a combined seven points in the two contests. Utah found a player to build its team around with freshman Jordan Loveridge who averaged 12.1 points and 7.0 rebounds per game during the season. Jason Washburn had a successful senior campaign himself, averaging 11.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game too. When the Pac-12 Tournament came around, the Utes were lucky enough to face USC without DeWayne Dedmon and defeated the Trojans in the first round before landing the surprise of Vegas by upsetting Cal in the quarterfinals 79-69.

Utah has found something to build on with Jordan Loveridge

Utah has found a potential star with Jordan Loveridge.

What Went Wrong 

Utah had some troublesome losses in non-conference play against Sacramento State and Cal State Northridge and headed into the conference season overmatched. They lost five straight games to start off the Pac-12 and were a woeful 3-13 before beating Oregon and Oregon State. The Utes’ guard play was inconsistent; Glen Dean and Aaron Dotson, who were supposed to be two of the Utes’ best players this year, disappointed tremendously. Dotson sat out some of the season with a foot injury, but could never gain traction in Larry Krystkowiak’s rotation as he averaged 2.7 points in 17.3 minutes per game. Dean only scored 5.5 points per game in over 25 minutes a game — both guards are now leaving the school.

MVP

Jordan Loveridge was the Utes’ best and most valuable player this year. The 6’6″ freshman used his 230-pound frame to out-muscle smaller players and was a major part of Utah’s offense as he used 24.7 percent of the team’s possessions during the season. He played his best basketball down the stretch by tallying games of  17, 14, 15, and 20 points against Oregon State, Oregon, USC, and Cal, respectively. He logged the highest amount of minutes per game on the team at 31.7 MPG and despite only shooting 40 percent on twos, Loveridge was successful from behind the arc by shooting 36 percent and shot 76 percent from the free throw line.

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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume III

Posted by AMurawa on January 23rd, 2013

Just about one-third of the way through our semester, Oregon is the favorite pupil, having earned all As in their exams. Join Professor Pac as we once again break down our class and see who’s joining the Ducks at the front of the class and who’s in the corner with the dunce cap.

Oregon – A

Before we give props to the Ducks for their 5-0 conference start and vault to the favorite position in the conference, let’s take a minute to mourn the loss of the full 18-game home-and-away round-robin of the Pac-10. You see, with UO’s win at UCLA this week and home win against Arizona last week, the Ducks have wrapped up this seasons’ meeting with those two teams. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bruins will get a chance for revenge, at least until and unless they meet up in Vegas come mid-March. But, that’s not the Ducks fault. No, they’ve done what they’ve needed to do early and they’ve set themselves up well. Now, they’ve still got more than two-thirds of the conference schedule remaining, but here are their remaining road games in conference play: Stanford, Cal, Washington, Washington State, Colorado and Utah. They’ll be favorites in all of those games, as well as all of their home games. Sure, there are probably a couple of losses in the mix there somewhere, but barring some significant slide that Dana Altman-coached teams are not known for, the Ducks are a heavy favorite to be the #1 seed in the Pac-12 tournament.

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

The Diminutive Jonathan Loyd Brings Energy Off The Bench For Oregon (goducks.com)

Focus on: Jonathan Loyd. Freshman point guard Dominic Artis is the rightful recipient of plenty of positive buzz regarding his play, but the diminutive junior backup deserves some credit for accepting his decreased minutes and filling his role. Sure, he can’t shoot a lick. And his turnovers are through the roof this season. But you can see that his defensive intensity has carried over to his freshman pupil and he always brings energy aplenty when he’s on the court. And, consider this: a 5’8” he swatted away a Larry Drew II fastbreak layup tattempt this weekend

Looking ahead: The Ducks host the Washington schools this week and Ken Pomeroy puts the chances that they win each game somewhere north of 85%. Beware the letdown, Ducks.

Arizona – A-

For three quarters of their battle with in-state rival Arizona State on Saturday, the ‘Cats had a battle on their hands, played basically to a draw. But over the last 10 minutes, a time that coincided almost exactly with Mark Lyons coming back in the game (and, with Lyons drawing the fourth foul on Jahii Carson), they outscored the Sun Devils by 15 and equaled the biggest defeat ASU has suffered this season. Over those ten minutes, Lyons repeatedly got to the hoop, scoring 12 points and handing out three assists in likely his best 10-minute stretch as the UA point guard. The problem is the previous 30 minutes, wherein Lyons had 12 points on 11 field goal attempts, zero assists and four turnovers. Sure, he’s one heck of a closer, but as the season ramps up come March, the ‘Cats will need a more complete performance.

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Pac-12 Weekly Honors: Week Ten

Posted by AMurawa on January 21st, 2013

Here’s this week’s rendition of the Pac-12′s peak performers…

Team of the Week – Oregon

This week the Ducks flew south and swept through a tough Los Angeles-area road trip, extending their winning streak to seven, including a perfect 5-0 record in the Pac-12. Along the way, with wins over pre-conference favorites Arizona and UCLA in their back pockets and neither of those teams remaining on the schedule the rest of the way, Dana Altman’s team became the favorite to earn the regular season title and the top seed in the Pac-12 Tournament. Behind a pair of freshman guards who are playing beyond their years and a veteran frontcourt that is locking up the boards and providing some scoring punch, the Ducks as they stand right now are very much a complete team, but they’ve still got room for improvement – a scary thought for the rest of the conference.

Brandon Taylor's Big Week Makes Him The Surprise Winner of The Pac-12 Player of the Week (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Brandon Taylor’s Big Week Makes Him The Surprise Winner of The Pac-12 Player of the Week (Elaine Thompson, AP)

Player (and Newcomer) of the Week – Brandon Taylor, Utah

Not a name I expected to be writing in this space this season, there were questions when Taylor signed with the Utes this past offseason whether he was up to competing at the Pac-12 level. Those questions have been answered time and again this season, as Taylor has steadily earned more minutes from head coach Larry Krystkowiak, with this past week against the Washington schools being the high-water mark. Over the course of the two games (which Utah split), Taylor earned 56 total minutes, scored 32 points, handed out nine assists, snatched four steals, and knocked down six of his nine three-point attempts on the way to a 81.3% effective field goal rate for the week. It remains to be seen if Taylor can duplicate any of those numbers in the future, but if nothing else, the freshman has proven himself a trustworthy option off the bench if any of the Ute veterans run into injuries, foul trouble or prolonged slumps.

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Utah Week: Ten Newcomers Breathe Life Into The Program

Posted by AMurawa on August 30th, 2012

As head coach Larry Krystkowiak begins to remake the Utah roster more to his liking, he welcomes in 10 new players next season, including three newly eligible Division I transfers, a couple of student-athletes returning from two-year LDS missions, four freshmen, and a junior college transfer. Coupled with three returning seniors, Utah will have a significantly more experienced team. Likewise, the talent level takes a big bump up from last year’s hastily assembled roster. Below, we’ll run down each of the newcomers in our guess as to the order of their importance to the 2012-13 squad.

Jordan Loveridge, Freshman, Combo Forward, 6’6” 225 lbs, West Jordan High School, West Jordan, Utah – The 2012 Player of the Year in Utah was a huge get for Krystkowiak, the first step in proving that the new head coach can protect his back yard. As a senior, Loveridge led the state in both scoring and rebounding, notching 18 double-doubles along the way. In the Utes’ summer trip to Brazil, he scored in double figures in three of the four games and averaged 13 points and eight rebounds per game in limited minutes during that stretch, prompting even further hope for UU fans that Loveridge will be a special player. Still, Loveridge is a guy most suited to play the four, and at 6’6” that could prove to be something of a problem in the Pac-12. He’s got long arms, a great basketball IQ and the ability to extend his game out beyond the three-point line, but he still needs to prove his effectiveness against Pac-12-caliber competition. Eventually if he polishes his perimeter handles, he could shift to the three spot full-time and turn into a match-up nightmare for opposing defenses.

Jarred DuBois, Utah

Jarred DuBois Leads A Trio Of Transfers That Will Remake The Ute Backcourt (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Jarred DuBois, Senior, Combo Guard, 6’3” 180 lbs, Loyola Marymount University – A graduate student transfer from LMU, DuBois is a playmaker. Unfortunately, there have been times in his career when the number of plays he makes for the opposition are greater than the number of plays he makes for his own team. Still, if he can tighten up his handle, take better care of the ball and – this might be the toughest of his assignments – shoot a decent percentage from the field, DuBois has the athleticism and toughness to be a major asset for the Utes. His best season at LMU was his sophomore campaign where he hit 59 threes at a 40% clip while handing out a couple assists per night and keeping his turnover rate low. If he can replicate that type of line, he’ll be an upgrade in the backcourt.

Aaron Dotson, Junior, Shooting Guard, 6’4” 204 lbs, Louisiana State University –Dotson, a native of Seattle, committed to LSU as a highly regarded member of the 2009 recruiting class, ranked #45 overall by ESPNU. In two years at LSU, Dotson earned 38 starts (out of 63 games), averaging 6.8 points per game in his sophomore year, by far his most effective season. He struggled mightily as a freshman, turning the ball over regularly and shooting just a 32.6% eFG. While his turnovers remained steady as a freshman, Dotson improved his shot as a sophomore, leading the Tigers with 37.5% from deep, but with his mother fighting breast cancer, Dotson decided it was time to head back across country and play closer to home. His size and athleticism coupled with a sweet stroke from three mean that there is plenty of upside here. If Dotson is able to harness his talents, he could be a revelation in the Pac-12.

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Utah: 2011-12 Post-Mortem

Posted by AMurawa on April 17th, 2012

What Went Wrong

Much of what went wrong in the Utah program that led to this season’s 6-25 debacle happened prior to new head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s first game on the sidelines at the Huntsman Center. Two years ago, following a disappointing and underachieving 14-17 season, five Utes, including the team’s two leading scorers, transferred out of Jim Boylen’s program. Then, following a 2010-11 season that took a step down from there with a 13-18 record that led to Boylen’s demise, six more players, including leading scorer and rebounder Will Clyburn, bolted from Salt Lake City. As a result, when the Krystkowiak era tipped off in November, there was a serious lack of talent in Ute basketball uniforms. Throw in the fact that 7’4” former Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year David Foster missed this season with a foot injury and Utah had to rely on just three returnees with any experience– point guard Josh Watkins, center Jason Washburn, and guard Chris Hines – along with six newcomers and a handful of walk-ons. Then Watkins, who was the team’s leading scorer and assist man, was dismissed prematurely in January. In short, this Ute team never really had a chance in its first year in the Pac-12. Even in a conference with a talent level near historic lows, the Utes just didn’t have the horses to hang with the bulk of the conference.

Jason Washburn, Utah

Jason Washburn Was A Lone Bright Spot On An Otherwise Miserable Ute Team (Associated Press)

What Went Right

There was a time, well into December, where it was questionable whether the Utes had a chance at earning so much as a single win against a Division I team. Then they strung together two straight home wins against Idaho State and Portland (admittedly, two really bad teams) before going on to win three conference games, including wins over Washington State and Stanford that go down as significantly improbable events. As absurd as it may seem, that 6-25 record is actually an overachievement for this team.

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 04.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on April 4th, 2012

  1. With the college basketball now, sadly, in the books, things are about to slow down here just a bit. But, we’re still going to keep you up to date on the Pac-12 as the interminable offseason rolls on. While we may not have Morning Fives on a regular basis, we will crank them out from time to time when we have Pac-12 hoops related content. Beginning this afternoon, we will begin posting report cards for each conference teams, and throughout the summer we’ll keep you posted on what these teams will look like in the future. And, we will hopefully toss in some fun little things from time to time as well.
  2. The most important Pac-12 news of the last couple days is Tony Wroten’s decision to forgo his final three seasons of collegiate eligibility and enter the NBA Draft; he’ll hire an agent, precluding any chance of a change of heart. Coupled with the graduation of senior Darnell Gant and the previous decision of Terrence Ross to go pro, Washington will lose a shade over 52% of their scoring from this year’s team. Still, Lorenzo Romar will get senior guard Scott Suggs back from a redshirt season due to injury, while redshirt freshman point guard Andrew Andrews, who sat out last season year due to the combination of Wroten and Abdul Gaddy already locked in at the point, should be ready to make an immediate impact. As for Wroten, projections on his draft status show him currently a late first round pick, but he’ll need to impress between now and the June draft in order to secure first round status and the guaranteed contract that goes with it.
  3. Utah fans got news on Wednesday of another outgoing defection, as it was announced that freshman forward George Matthews would be transferring out of the program, making him the fifth player to transfer out since the end of the season. Matthews was the most highly regarded of last year’s six-man recruiting class, but he struggled with injuries in the offseason and was never truly healthy this season. Still, this is not exactly a blow to Utah’s plans. They needed to cull the flock a bit in order to make room for next year’s incoming recruits, and, really, this roster needed to be remade in a bad way. Part of that remake is the addition of 5’9” point guard Brandon Taylor who’ll join the team next year as a freshman and have a chance to compete for starters’ minutes from day one.
  4. While here on the second day of the offseason, it still seems quite a long way away, little by little we’re hearing about games being scheduled for next year. On Wednesday word filtered down that UCLA would be playing San Diego State in the Wooden Classic on December 1. While this is not official yet, it marks a couple of interesting occasions. First, and perhaps foremost, it represents the return of the Wooden Classic to a weekend non-conference game for UCLA early in December, rather than the thrown-together Thursday night conference matchup with Arizona that took place last year. Hopefully there will be another interesting game of some sort on the same card as the SDSU/UCLA game and the event to honor one of college basketball’s most enduring icons will be on safe footing against. Secondly, it also marks the first time these two teams will have met in the Steve Fisher era with the Aztecs and the first time since 1991. With SDSU welcoming in some high profile transfers and UCLA potentially sporting one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, this could be a game to watch in next year’s non-conference slate.
  5. Lastly, on Monday the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced their 2012 inductees, and a couple of Pac-12 players were on the list – UCLA’s Jamaal Wilkes and Reggie Miller. While both are probably more well known for the exploits at the professional level, each excelled with the Bruins. Wilkes won two championships under John Wooden (‘72 and ‘73) and was twice a first-team All-American (’73 and ’74), averaging 15 points and 7.4 rebounds per game over his three-year career in Westwood. Miller certainly didn’t have anywhere near the team success that Wilkes did with the Bruins (although he did lead UCLA to the first-ever Pac-10 conference tournament title in his senior year), but was a spectacular talent, averaging almost 24 points per game over his final two seasons.
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