Rushed Reactions: #1 Duke 63, #5 Utah 57

Posted by Bennet Hayes on March 27th, 2015


Three Key Takeaways.

Justise Winslow Starred In Duke's Sweet Sixteen Victory Friday Night (USA Today Images)

Justise Winslow Starred In Duke’s Sweet Sixteen Victory Friday Night (USA Today Images)

  1. Duke’s Dominant Defense. The Blue Devils made their way to Houston largely on the backs of a prolific offense but it was a disruptive defensive effort that fueled Friday night’s victory. In the Utah backcourt, Duke extended pressure and forced 15 Utes’ turnovers; when Utah managed to settle into the half-court offense they found the going no easier, as they made just 34.6 percent of their field goal attempts, including only 4-of-16 from behind the arc. Over the course of the last two months, an improving Duke defense has often gone unnoticed while the hyper-efficient offense has whizzed on the other end. Today, however, there is no chance it goes overlooked — this was a varied and dynamic defensive effort against a good offensive team that earned Duke a trip to the Elite Eight. If similar efforts continue, that defense could take them even further.
  2. Delon Wright Never Gets Going. Utah’s indispensable senior star was whistled for an extremely questionable third foul with 4:59 to play in the first half, relegating him to cheerleading duties for the remainder of the period. In 13 first-half minutes, he managed only two points (on 1-of-5 field-goal shooting) without an assist. Wright was far more involved in the second half – he finished with 10 points, six rebounds and three steals – but his final contributions were still insufficient for the Utes to seriously challenge Duke. He missed 10 of his 14 field goal attempts, turned the ball over as many times as he set up teammates for buckets (two), and generally failed to penetrate the Duke defense. In totality, Wright’s senior season was spectacular – he was THE catalyst for Utah’s revival. But on Friday night, much like he was in other games down the stretch, Wright just didn’t measure up to the lofty standards his early brilliance helped set.
  3. Okafor Was Contained, But No Problem For Duke. Utah did a good job containing Duke’s freshman All-American, limiting Okafor to 3-of-6 shooting from the field while forcing him into four turnovers. Jakob Poeltl and Dallin Bachynski took turns as the primary defender on Okafor, but the Utes also brought a double-team immediately upon any Okafor touch, which served well in minimizing his impact. The good news for Duke: The Blue Devils learned they could win without a standout performance from Okafor. The bad news: Future opponents could replicate the Utes defensive plan of attack to make life difficult for him. Thinking to Sunday: Will Gonzaga leave Karnowski and Sabonis to battle Okafor one-on-one?

Star of the Game. Justise Winslow, Duke. Winslow’s stellar first-weekend play carried over to tonight as the Duke freshman again stuffed the stat sheet. His final line: 21 points, 10 rebounds, two blocks and a steal. It wasn’t all good for Winslow – Brekkott Chapman beat Winslow for a layup while he was celebrating a made three-point field goal, much to the chagrin of Coach K – but the versatile wing again proved his immense value on Friday night. In an unusual twist, it was Winslow who hit all three of the Duke three-point field goals, finding the range on a night where teammates Quinn Cook and Tyus Jones could not. Fearing his athleticism, Utah dared him to shoot perimeter jumpers – Winslow made them pay.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

On the Rise Of Utah Basketball

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on February 26th, 2015

On Saturday, Arizona will travel to Utah for a game with major implications to the Pac-12 regular season title picture. Any casual basketball fan knows the general story of Sean Miller and his refresh of the Wildcats program – a program with a proud history returned to elite status following the bumpy ending of the Lute Olson era. What many may not recognize is that the Utes are following a similar path. Following the stability and excellence of the 14 years of the Rick Majerus era (which featured no losing records, 10 seasons with at least 24 wins, a Final Four and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances), the Utes burned through two coaches in seven years and suffered four losing seasons over that volatile stretch. Compared with Arizona’s post-Olson struggles, Utah’s downturn was far more pronounced. But through the combination of the right hire, rampant roster revamping and, let’s face it, some good luck, the Utes have come out the other side of their dark period as a member of a power conference and back to national contention.

After A Rough Transition Post-Majerus, Utah Basketball Is Back In Its Rightful Place (Utah Athletics)

After A Rough Transition Post-Majerus, Utah Basketball Is Back In Its Rightful Place. (Utah Athletics)

The 2010-11 season was a great example of mixed emotions around the Utah basketball program. There was the excitement that the Utes were headed to a new conference – the newly named Pac-12 – in the following season. But at the same time, the current edition of the team was struggling to a tie for sixth place in the Mountain West as head coach Jim Boylen wrapped up his four-year stint with a third losing conference record. The program was coming off a season in which five players (including some guy named Marshall Henderson, and another one named Carlon Brown – who went on to be a Pac-12 Tournament MVP in leading Colorado to an NCAA bid in 2012) had transferred out of the program. Boylen was subsequently fired, and after a search that included St. Mary’s Randy Bennett and former Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried as candidates, Montana’s Larry Krystkowiak was named the new head coach on April 2, 2011.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Season Previews: Utah Utes

Posted by Andrew Murawa on November 11th, 2014

The Pac-12 microsite will preview each of its league teams over the next few weeks, continuing today with Utah.

Utah Utes

Strengths. If you’re reading this microsite, there is a good chance you already know about the Utes’ stars such as Delon Wright and Jordan Loveridge, but just about every team in this conference has a star it can point to. Rather, what makes this team a sexy choice as the second-best team in this conference is not merely those two stars, but the quality of depth throughout this roster. Veterans like Brandon Taylor, Dallin Bachynski, Dakarai Tucker and Jeremy Olsen are all accustomed to big roles on this team. Add in a talented batch of newcomers, including four-star power forward Brekkot Chapman, talented JuCo transfer Chris Reyes, international recruit Jakob Poetl, three-point specialist Kyle Kuzma and floor general Isaiah Wright, and Larry Krystkowiak is swimming in talented options up and down his roster.

Larry Krystkowiak and The Utes Will Have To Deal With The Pressure Of Expectations For The First Time (Utah Basketball)

Larry Krystkowiak and The Utes Will Have To Deal With The Pressure Of Expectations For The First Time. (Utah Athletics)

Weaknesses. We’re not even going to pick nits with the roster. There are some weaknesses here which will become apparent as the season wears on, but where this squad really has to prove itself is in its ability to win games. The Utes lost all seven of their games decided by a single possession last season and, given a serious uptick in the quality of their non-conference schedule, their mettle will be tested early and often this year. Utah has plenty of guys who have been through plenty of battles, but until they can prove their ability to pull out their best effort when the chips are down, there will remain questions about the ceiling of this team.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 Post-Mortems: Utah

Posted by Andrew Murawa on April 15th, 2014

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll go through each Pac-12 team one by one and recount the season that has just completed and begin to turn the page to what we might see next season. Today, Utah.

What Went Right

For the first time since Larry Krystkowiak took over a shell of a program from Jim Boylen, Utah basketball fans had a team that they knew could be competitive night in and night out. Of the Utes’ 12 losses this season, seven were by a single possession. The talent level is clearly back to the point where the Utes can be competitive in the Pac-12, defense has become a priority, and the future appears bright.

In His Third Season In Salt Lake City, Larry Krystkowiak's Squad Began To Turn The Corner (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

In His Third Season In Salt Lake City, Larry Krystkowiak’s Squad Began To Turn The Corner (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

What Went Wrong

So, those seven losses by a single possession? Well, that’s not good, is it? Time and time again, the Utes had chances to win close games down the stretch, and time and time again they wound up with losses in those games. Their record in games decided by a single possession was 0-7. They lost all three of their overtime games. And only six times all season did they win games decided by fewer than 10 points. In other words, unless the Utes were blowing out their opponent, odds were good that they were losing. Chalk some of that up to bad luck, another portion to a young team still learning to win games, and more to some coaching breakdowns. But the good news is that if next year’s Utes can find some ways to win those close games, they should be looking at a very good record.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 02.10.14 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on February 10th, 2014


  1. The Marcus Smart incident wasn’t the only negative fan-related problem from this weekend, as the Pac-12 had one of its own. According to reports from the Oregon basketball staff and members of the team, an Arizona State student spit on Oregon assistant coach Brian Fish and trainer Clay Jamieson following that game. University police witnessed the event, followed the Ducks to their locker room and discussed the incident with the Ducks’ staff, but they declined to press charges. According to Fish, the team was also spit on at halftime heading to the visitor’s locker room via a ramp that bisects the Arizona State student section. As college basketball fans, we certainly love the fact that fans are passionate about the game, but we would hope that people have reasonable boundaries. But, knowing full well that all fans won’t always respect those boundaries, and knowing even better that college-aged students will have even further problems with them, schools and their arenas need to do their best to protect the opposition. Odds are good that the location of the student section at Arizona State will be reconsidered, not that a change in that area will prevent all fan abuses in the future.
  2. As for the game on the court, Sun Devil senior center Jordan Bachynski was the key to a weekend sweep of the Oregon schools. Averaging 21.5 points, 12 rebounds, and eight blocks (!!!!!) on 15-of-20 from the field and 13-of-16 from the free throw line, he dominated the paint against the undersized Ducks and even against the talent Oregon State frontline. On a weekend where he became the conference’s all-time leader in blocked shots, Bachynski had his best all-around back-to-back pair of games in his career in Tempe.
  3. Meanwhile, brother Dallin Bachynski is getting the job done up the road a spell for Utah. Together with sophomore center Jeremy Olsen, Bachynski has helped to give the Utes a toughness inside to pair with the talented wing players who have more regularly been the stars. Against Washington State on Saturday night, Olsen and Bachynski combined for 20 points and 11 boards in a dominating win that has the squad now within a game of .500 in conference play. They’re still a longshot, but the Utes have at least kept alive the hope of an NCAA bid this season.
  4. UCLA, meanwhile, looks like a team that is headed to an NCAA Tournament berth, but they’re still a team that is in need of a good old-fashioned paint-peeling half-time dress-down like the one head coach Steve Alford gave them against USC on Saturday night. After an uninspiring first half, the Bruins were down six and clearly not playing to the best of their abilities. But, a 10-0 run out of the halftime locker room, turned into a 27-6 run and UCLA coasted over an overmatched Trojans team from there.
  5. Lastly, with Arizona now shorthanded without Brandon Ashley, a key for head coach Sean Miller from here on out will be the ability to manage minutes, conserve energy and wisely use his main six players. Sunday night in a blowout against Oregon State, each of the starting five played between 28 and 31 minutes, with Gabe York and Elliott Pitts combining for another 37. They’ve now got a full four days to recover before they face Arizona State on Friday night, then another four days before they travel to Utah, but it will be interesting to see not only how Miller manages his team’s game minutes, but its workout minutes off of the court.
Share this story

Pac-12 M5: 01.13.14 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on January 13th, 2014


  1. Colorado traveled to Washington on Sunday afternoon and came away with not only a 17-point loss, but something potentially far worse. Junior point guard Spencer Dinwiddie injured his knee late in the first half, crumpled to the ground in pain and had to be carried off the court. An MRI is scheduled to be conducted today in order to find out more, but as head coach Tad Boyle put it, at first glance this is “not good.” We’ll have more on this story as it develops, but for now just offer our best wishes to Dinwiddie.
  2. Utah struggled this weekend, losing a pair on the road to the Washington schools, but Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune has a good story on the maturation of center Dallin Bachynski. Last year, after a strong start to the season, Bachynski saw his minutes and his production dwindle and he let that damage his attitude, to the point where he left the team temporarily in the middle of the season. But, after getting good counsel from his brother Jordan, senior center at Arizona State, Bachynski rejoined the team and has since cleaned up his attitude to the point where he is again a positive to his team.
  3. Jones also had the Utes dialed in this weekend when he mentioned in advance of Sunday’s loss that the team’s three losses had come by a grand total of six points. Well, now make it four losses and nine points. But, either way, clearly Utah needs to work on their execution in end-game scenarios. Part of the problem may be due to a young roster, part of it may be the hangover effect of a team that has grown used to winning games, but at least this much is clear: the Utes are close and if they can begin to get over the hump, these close losses may turn into close wins.
  4. Arizona had a big weekend in Los Angeles, scoring not only a pair of wins over UCLA and USC, but also a five-star 2015 recruit in the process. Tyler Dorsey of St. John Bosco is currently the #2 shooting guard in his class according to ESPN and also the #7 overall player. After Wildcat head coach Sean Miller caught Dorsey’s Friday night game, Dorsey tweeted out his commitment later that night, choosing the Wildcats over suitors including UCLA and Duke. With an elite recruiting class already headed to Tucson next season, Dorsey is just the start of another great class for Miller.
  5. Lastly, California remains one of the conference’s two undefeated teams in league play, having won their first three games – all on the road. Saturday night, the shorthanded Golden Bears, playing without freshman Jabari Bird and junior Ricky Kreklow, nevertheless found a way to get a big boost from their bench to knock off Oregon State. Little-used Jeff Powers led the way by knocking in 14 points (mainly on four threes) in just 15 minutes of action to spark the team to a road comeback win.
Share this story

Pac-12 Roundup: Week Eight

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) and Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 7th, 2014

Out of the country? Living under a rock? Here’s what you missed in the eighth week of Pac-12 basketball. 

Power Rankings (as voted upon by Connor Pelton, Andrew Murawa and Adam Butler):

Arizona is once again the unanimous top choice this week, but the only other unanimous pick is Washington State at the bottom. There is a general consensus among the group as to the top six in the league, but after that, things get very interesting. Check the results below.

Askia Booker, Colorado

Junior Guard Askia Booker Scored 27 Points While Handing Oregon Its First Loss Of The Season On Sunday

  1. Arizona (15-0, 3 Points). Comment: “This doesn’t appear to be one of those blow-the-other-guy-to-smithereens Arizona teams like those that Lute Olson operated, winning by ridiculous, double-figure margins. Saturday’s game might have been the surest preview of what the final 16 games of the Pac-12 season will be.” – Greg Hansen (@ghansen711)
  2. Colorado (13-2, 7 Points). Comment: “The SDSU-Kansas game has a bigger storyline, but this Oregon-Colorado contest is a much better game. Two second-weekend teams squaring off.” – Ryan Fagan (@ryanfagan)
  3. Oregon (13-1, 9 Points). Comment: “Colorado wasn’t doing anything different defensively than they had all game in the final 10 minutes — Oregon was just missing, missing, and missing some more.” – David Piper (@atqdaveRead the rest of this entry »
Share this story

Thoughts From Opening Night in the Pac-12

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

In what was a very entertaining night of basketball around the Pac-12, here are a number of semi-interesting thoughts for Thursday’s five games.

Oregon 70, Utah 68 (OT)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

Despite A Step Up In Competition, Delon Wright Continues To Produce Across the Board (George Frey, AP)

  • Plenty of words have already been spent dissecting Utah’s final possessions in regulation and then in overtime, but those two possessions took up about two percent of the entire game. There is more to be gleaned from the other 98-ish percent. So let’s spend some time digging into that game. The biggest question coming into it was: “So, are the Utes really any good?” Well, Utah answered that question with a resounding: “I dunno. Maybe!?! Probably?!? Aw, who knows?” Delon Wright wasn’t as athletically dominant against more worthy competition, but still wound up with 14 points, six boards, four blocks, a couple steals and dimes. And, if anything, he was underused. Oregon got the memo about his unreliable jumper and often backed off him, went under screens, and dared him to knock down jumpers, which he did on a couple of occasions. But that’s still far preferable to letting him get to the rim, which he can do against all but the most capable defenders.
  • Elsewhere, Dallin Bachynski really answered the call in the middle (despite that unfortunate play at the end, which can hardly be blamed on him) and was probably the best big on the court throughout the game, something that wasn’t expected.
  • While the Utes played very well as a whole, Jordan Loveridge was not at his best Thursday night, settling for jumpers too often and, worse yet, settling for long jumpers; he took six of his 23 shots from three-point land and made just one of them. While Loveridge is capable inside and out, he relied far too much on his outside game and shunned the inside portion. Perhaps some of this was part of a game plan to keep Mike Moser from being an interior defensive presence, but there were too many times where Loveridge floated to the three-point  line while Wright was clearly trying to set up a post feed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

Larry Krystkowiak: Great Coach With Some Head-Scratching Late-Game Decisions

Posted by Andrew Murawa (@AMurawa) on January 3rd, 2014

First things first: the job Larry Krystkowiak has done at Utah has been absolutely remarkable. This team had by far the worst assemblage (or lack thereof) of talent in major conference basketball just a couple years back. He’s scrambled to remake this roster from the smoking ruins that his predecessor Jim Boylen left behind, and he has done a terrific job, so much so that this year (and well ahead of schedule) he’s got his Utes not just very competitive but fun to watch. With a roster that will likely return its most valuable players and with more talent due in the Huntsman Center next year (and likely beyond that), the future that Krystkowiak is constructing in Salt Lake City is bright indeed. What’s more, he’s a terrific coach who gets the most out of the talent that he’s cobbled together and he’s a great game-planner. Fill in whatever other compliments you would like to heap on Krystkowiak here – he’s a fine dresser; his breath probably smells like peaches and his hair like roses; he’s a crime-stopping, upstanding citizen – yes, all this and more is probably true.

I Dunno Coach, I Just Don't Know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

I dunno coach, I just don’t know (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

But, man, did he screw up the end of that game last night against Oregon. Twice.

Credit where credit is due: He kept his squad fighting when it looked like the Ducks were going to pull away, and he was right there with his team, scrapping and scraping to get his team in a position to take home a W in the conference opener. But, let’s start in regulation. Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share this story