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.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.27.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on December 27th, 2013

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  1. With St. Katherine, a community college based out of Vallejo, California, in town on Saturday, what is worrying Utah head coach Larry Krystowiak the most this holiday week? How much his players are eating while home for four days on Christmas break. “I’m trusting them to do the things that they need to do to stay in good basketball shape,” Krystkowiak said. Also discussed in the linked piece is the quandary of whether to redshirt junior center Marko Kovacevic, who has just recently been cleared to practice following a broken wrist. The last time Kovacevic saw on-court competition was the 2011-12 season, when he averaged 11.7 PPG for Western Nebraska CC. The Utes would like another go-to option outside of sophomore Jordan Loveridge in the post when senior big man Renan Lenz gets into foul trouble.
  2. Arizona made it official on Monday night with its 33-point shellacking of in-state foe Northern Arizona. The Wildcats made it through non-conference play unscathed for a second consecutive season, entering Pac-12 play with a 13-0 record and as the top-ranked team in the nation. Next up is league play, which features the toughest Pac-12 top-to-bottom in quite a long time. They do, however, get a brief reprieve, facing arguably the two easiest teams in the league to open the Pac-12 slate: Washington State and Washington.
  3. Staying in Tucson, Wildcats center Kaleb Tarczewski is hoping that his right ankle is able to heal fully by that aforementioned game against the Cougars on January 2. Head coach Sean Miller hopes to have him close to 100 percent by then, all thanks to a rigorous regimen undertaken during Christmas vacation. The sophomore has been logging up to eight hours of rehabilitation work per day under trainer Justin Kokoskie’s guidance. This week will be spent focusing more on basketball-specific things and getting stability in the area surrounding the injured muscle. As Kokoskie points out, though, everybody can point to a different body part that’s sore at this point in the season. The break couldn’t have come at a better time, giving the guys a chance to recharge and get healthy.
  4. Seven Pac-12 teams making the NCAA Tournament? Just two seasons after only placing one team into the round of 64? It’s certainly possible. The Cats, along with Oregon, UCLA, and Colorado, all seem to be locks at this point, while strong performances in conference play by Arizona State, Stanford, and probably one of either Utah or California could all send that group dancing as well. Times are changing on the west coast, and boy is it going to be a fun next three months.
  5. Sticking with the same theme, Tony Jones wonders if the Pac-12 is the best basketball conference in the country. The league had a terrific showing against teams from other conferences, posting notable wins over the likes of Duke, Marquette, Kansas and Connecticut, to name a few. We also, of course, boast the current top team in the country in Arizona, and even two of the worst teams in the league have boasted wins over Maryland and Purdue, some 3,000 miles away from home.
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Pac-12 Weekly Roundup: Week Five

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 17th, 2013

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

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

For the second consecutive week, we’ve got the same four teams at the top of the poll. We’ve also got consensus on all of those teams, with every ballot listing the top four teams in the same order. From there, however, things get tricky, but there is very clearly a second tier of four teams, with Arizona State, California, Utah and Stanford all bunched together before there is another drop off to Oregon State, Washington State, USC and Washington locked into a group. But perhaps the most notable thing, and likely the most surprising occurrence around the conference this season, is Washington polling last. Expectations were not particularly high for the Huskies this season, but I doubt many expected that.

Arizona's Big Win At Michigan Has Them Firmly Entrenched As The Pac-12's Top Team (AP Photo)

Arizona’s Big Win At Michigan Has The Wildcats Firmly Entrenched  as the Pac-12’s Top Team. (AP)

  1. Arizona
  2. Oregon
  3. Colorado
  4. UCLA
  5. Arizona State
  6. California
  7. Utah
  8. Stanford
  9. Oregon State
  10. Washington State
  11. USC
  12. Washington

Team of the Week

Arizona – The Wildcats are the no-brainer here, not only for their #1 national ranking but also for the way in which they maintained that ranking — by going on the road to an unfriendly arena; bouncing back from a slow start that led to a double-figure second half deficit; fighting through a key injury and some foul trouble on an already intentionally short rotation; and making enough big-time plays down the stretch to knock off last year’s national runner-up. Yes, Arizona earned this honor.

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The Best In The West: Ranking the Top 20 Teams West Of The Rockies

Posted by AMurawa on December 16th, 2013

Roughly a quarter of the way through the year, we’re going to unveil something a little new here, something we’ll check back in on once a month or so. We’re going to take all the schools west of the Rockies (and we’re going to be a bit generous with our geography – basically we’re looking at schools from the Pac-12, Mountain West, West Coast, and Big West and then some of the schools from the Big Sky and Western Athletic Conferences) and give you the top 20 teams. But, rather than just ranking schools 1 though 20, we’re going to divide all these teams up into tiers, in part because calling Arizona #1 and then naming another school #2 just seems wrong, because the Wildcats are just so far ahead of everyone else. Below, you’ll see our Top 20 teams in the West (their overall rank will be in parentheses), with descriptions of what we think the teams in each tier have in common, plus brief comments on the teams in our list.

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

Arizona Is The Undisputed Leader In The West (Casey Sapio, USA Today Sports)

The Best of the BestIn a league of their own.

Arizona (#1 overall, Pac-12 #1) – The Wildcats are in a class by themselves out West. Even when putting together my national top 25, I wanted to put Arizona at #1, leave spots 2-5 empty, and then have a four-way tie at #6. What they’ve accomplished thus far is unassailable, especially considering how young this team is. Expect somebody (maybe multiple somebodies) in the Pac-12 to put up a serious challenge, but at this point in the season, Sean Miller’s squad is not only the best in the West, but they’re the best by a long shot.

Contenders to the Throne – And all top 25 teams.

Oregon (#2 overall, Pac-12 #2) – The Ducks are the team closest to joining the Wildcats up top, but while they’ve got an undefeated record and some quality scalps, they’re missing the quality of wins that the Wildcats have. But, as good as Dana Altman’s squad has been, they’re not even at full strength yet – Dominic Artis and Ben Carter are due back this week.

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Pac-12 M5: 12.16.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 16th, 2013

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  1. We’re in the midst of a real good streak in the Pac-12. As ESPN’s Roxy Bernstein noted on Sunday night, the conference has now gone 18 straight games without a loss since last Sunday when Washington fell to San Diego State. So as we enter a new week, we’ve got nothing but good things to talk about. We discussed Arizona’s big win over Michigan this weekend, and you heard about Oregon’s offensive fireworks in a win over Illinois, so we’ll skip those high-profile games and jump to the next biggest game of the weekend, in which Utah put the beatdown on in-state rival BYU. By the time all the attendees in the Huntsman Center had shaken the cold out of their bones, the Utes were already up double-figures behind an early explosion from sophomore Jordan Loveridge. He had 15 points before the under-12 media timeout; the Utes had a 21-8 lead; and the Cougars were never within single digits again.
  2. Stanford bounced back from not only the loss of senior guard Aaron Bright to a season-ending injury, but an extended break due to finals to rough up UC Davis by 27 points on Saturday. Four guys scored in double figures; the team handed out 22 assists on 31 field goals; and the Cardinal rolled. With Connecticut and Michigan due up next for Johnny Dawkins’ team, it was a chance to put the start of the year behind it and begin building toward a strong second act.
  3. Across the bay, it was California’s senior Richard Solomon who was guiding the Golden Bears to a solid win over a tough Fresno State team. Solomon’s 17 points and 14 boards only begin to tell the whole story. Solomon was an efficient offensive option, scoring those 17 points on just nine field goal attempts and dominating an undersized Bulldog front line, accounting for three steals, a couple of blocks, and regularly contesting jumpers from the smaller Fresno players.
  4. On Sunday night Washington State got back to business, handling Pepperdine with ease in a 17-point victory. Rather than DaVonte Lacy leading the scoring per usual, though, it was junior wing Royce Woolridge who had his best game of the year by scoring 20 points and handing out four assists. Likewise, Que Johnson dialed things up, scoring 14 points in his best performance as a Coug. While it’s been a slow start this season, there are signs of life around the Wazzu basketball team. For the first time all year, they’re pretty clearly not the worst team in the Pac-12.
  5. So, who is the worst team in the Pac-12 this season? USC put its case on display on Sunday night with an unimpressive four-point win over Cal State Bakersfield in which junior wing Byron Wesley was the only Trojan who was physically superior to the opposition. The other option for worst in the league is a Washington team that showed off its awful defense against a bad Idaho State squad on Saturday. While they had no trouble scoring, they also allowed four Bengals to score in double figures and just looked completely disinterested. Again.
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Pac-12 M5: 12.09.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on December 9th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. By the time you read this, odds are good that the new AP poll will have been released with Arizona topping the list for the first time in more than a decade. After Michigan State fell at home to North Carolina earlier in the week, all the Wildcats had to do to solidify their position was to take care of business at home against a UNLV team that has yet to congeal. However, as the game on Saturday entered its 40th minute, the outcome was still very much in doubt. But a spectacular Aaron Gordon block was followed up by a driving layup from Brandon Ashley, and the Wildcats escaped. With newly top-rated teams having a habit of dropping games quickly, watch out for Arizona’s tough road trip to Michigan next Saturday morning.
  2. Oregon was one of several Pac-12 teams with tough road games scheduled for this weekend. But, while UCLA and California came up on the short end of the stick in their first true away games of the season, the Ducks took to the road with aplomb, getting a steady performance from Jonathan Loyd and plenty of production from talented transfers Mike Moser, Joseph Young, Jason Calliste and Elgin Cook to withstand the Marshall Henderson show at Mississippi. With the Bruins’ defeat at the hands of Missouri, Oregon and Arizona now stand alone as the two remaining undefeated teams in the conference.
  3. Colorado, meanwhile, got to spend its weekend at home in frigid Boulder, but their test was no less stringent. The Buffaloes welcomed in a talented Kansas team and came away with their first win over the Jayhawks in more than a decade. That 0-for-19 streak is now in the past, as the Buffaloes rode a surprise contribution from little-used senior center Ben Mills, versatile and efficient play from sophomore center Josh Scott, an inspired performance from sophomore forward Xavier Johnson – including a ferocious early dunk – and, of course, a deep buzzer-beating runner from Askia Booker to inspire a good old-fashioned rushing of the court. Not everybody found the court rushing so fun, as Paul Klee of the Colorado Springs Gazette recounts photographers getting trampled, some near-misses and even Booker himself sustaining a shoulder injury in the celebration.
  4. USC scored a solid win for itself on Sunday night, thumping Boston College behind an impressive second half. While the Trojans got balanced scoring with five different players reaching double figures, junior guard Byron Wesley continues to stand out as the team’s leader. Head coach Andy Enfield regularly praises his veteran wing for his fundamental soundness, while teammate Omar Oraby says that just watching Wesley’s work ethic helps his teammates get better.
  5. Lastly, Utah bounced back from its first loss of the season by scoring 50 second-half points to get past Fresno State. Sophomore Jordan Loveridge broke out of something of a slump by scoring all 13 of his points in the second half, while junior point guard Delon Wright continues to fill up stat sheets, setting a new career high with 12 assists and tying his career high with 23 points for his third double-double of the year. Wright came up four rebounds shy of a triple-double, but with his complete game, expect him to register at least one of those by the time the season is done. Oh, and while we’re on the topic, Wright has made 52 of his 70 shots from the field this season. Combined with his solid free throw shooting, that put’s Wright’s true shooting percentage at 76.6 percent, good for fifth in the nation to this point.
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Introducing the Pac-12 All-Conference Teams

Posted by Andrew (@amurawa) on November 8th, 2013

Later today, maybe even by the time you get around to reading this, there will be real live full-fledged regular season basketball to watch. It’s a beautiful thing. As our last little bit of preview before we get into five months of madness (don’t let the marketing geniuses fool you into thinking that only happens in March), we’ll roll out three teams strong (and just five players per team – please take note conferences of all stripes) of All-Pac-12 personnel.

Here goes nothing:

First Team

Arizona State Sophomore Jahii Carson Is A Unanimous Choice As Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Among RTC Voters. (USA Today)

Arizona State Sophomore Jahii Carson Is A Unanimous Choice As Pac-12 Preseason Player of the Year Among RTC Voters. (USA Today)

  • Jahii Carson, Sophomore, Arizona State – Carson is a unanimous selection among our voters as the best player in the conference, topping all three ballots submitted. After averaging 18 points and five assists as a freshman, Carson is hoping an improved jumper, a faster tempo and a deeper roster will help the Sun Devils’ star wrap up his time in Tempe with an NCAA Tournament appearance.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, Junior, Colorado – Dinwiddie’s three-point percentage dipped precipitously as a sophomore, but his aggressiveness and overall effectiveness increased, as he turned into a significantly better finisher and play-maker in his role as lead guard. If his jumper from range returns to anywhere near his freshman year levels, watch out.
  • Jordan Adams, Sophomore, UCLA – Even though Adams was clearly overshadowed by two, if not all three of his UCLA classmates prior to last year, the wing out of Atlanta was arguably the best of the group. He was second on the team in scoring, with 15.3 points per game, but brought along a game varied enough to have a positive impact even when he wasn’t scoring.

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Pac-12 M5: 11.04.13 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton (@ConnorPelton28) on November 4th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. Utah played its one and only exhibition game on Saturday, and the result was a mixed bag. The Utes began pulling away from St. Martin’s late in the first half with their athleticism and depth, and the final score was 91-54. Jordan Loveridge played well in the post, scoring 21 points and adding six rebounds. Delon Wright also impressed in his new role for the Utes, playing the majority of the time at the one but still grabbing eight rebounds. However, it was apparent that they still don’t have a second presence in the frontcourt, something head coach Larry Krystowiak needs to figure out before their first regular season game on Friday.
  2. Colorado wasn’t happy when the AP Top 25 poll came out on Thursday and the Buffaloes were left off it. The Buffs were fourth among Pac-12 teams in the AP despite coming in third, and even garnering a first place vote, in the Pac-12 Media Poll. Tad Boyle’s team isn’t too far out of the rankings, however, being listed fifth in the “Also Receiving Votes” category. Preseason ratings really have no meaning, but if you can use it as motivation for being snubbed like Spencer Dinwiddie is, more power to you. Colorado opens the season on Friday against Baylor in Houston.
  3. The annual NBA D-League Draft was held on Friday evening, and two former Washington guards were taken in the first two rounds. Scott Suggs was taken in the first round by the Santa Cruz Warriors, and Abdul Gaddy was selected one round later by the Iowa Energy. As usual, the entire Pac-12 made a strong showing at the minor league draft, with eight alums being picked throughout the 12 rounds. Former Arizona power forward Grant Jerrett was taken with the first overall pick by the Tulsa 66ers. More Wildcats, Kevin Parrom and Salim Stoudamire, was taken by Rio Grande Valley and Fort Wayne, respectively. In addition, a pair of USC forwards were taken in the third round, and the Springfield Armor took former Oregon big man Joevon Catron early in the fourth.
  4. Also taking place Friday night was Washington State‘s lone exhibition tune-up, and the Cougars handled Central Washington for a 93-56 victory. The Cougars debuted their new pressure defense for much of the game, making the Wildcats execute their offense on all 94 feet of the floor. Ken Bone‘s team also shot the ball well, making 33 of 66 field goal attempts. The race to replace all-everything forward Brock Motum is also underway, and while senior big man D.J. Shelton led the team in points, it was freshman power forward Josh Hawkinson that surprised the most. Only playing ten minutes for Washington State, Hawkinson grabbed eight boards and scored six points. That will definitely be a position battle to watch as Washington State approaches its regular season opener on November 8 against Cal State Bakersfield.
  5. Oregon State held its “Beaver Fan Jam” Friday afternoon before the Oregon State football game against USC, and a dunk contest highlighted the festivities. Junior forward Eric Moreland took second place in the contest, producing this nice tomahawk jam and an over-the-“car” dunk in the second round. However, it was freshman point guard Malcolm Duvivier that took home the inaugural slam dunk title. He won it with this 360 beauty, leaving Beaver fans hoping to see it in actual game action one day. Oregon State hosts Concordia to close out its exhibition season Tuesday night in Corvallis.
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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

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  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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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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Thoughts on the Pac-12 Quarterfinals, Evening Session

Posted by AMurawa on March 15th, 2013

Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) is the RTC correspondent for the Pac-12 Conference. He filed this report after the second session of the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas on Thursday evening.

The evening pair of quarterfinals began with the expectation that there was no way it could live up to the atmosphere and excitement of the afternoon session. And, while it took some time for all of the fans to filter in from happy hour, by the second half of the first game, we had a really good crowd. And what a game that first one was as Utah stormed back from an eight-point second-half deficit against California, survived a seven-minute scoreless streak and got a miraculous Jarred DuBois three over the outstretched arm of 6’10” David Kravish in the waning moments to force overtime, where they would eventually win the game. Lots of little things to mention from this contest:

  • First and foremost, gotta give props to Larry Krystkowiak. Aside from rebuilding his roster from scratch, he’s also done a great job getting incremental improvements out of this team over the course of the season. Remember when this team lost to Stanford by 31? Or lost at the Oregon schools by an average of 14.5 points per game? Now this team is riding a four-game winning streak, shows all the hallmarks of being a well-coached team and is a deserving semifinal entrant. Just wait until the talent level gets to where he wants it.

    Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

    Larry Krystkowiak Has Done A Great Job Getting A Rebuilding Program Into The Pac-12 Semis

  • Utah freshman Jordan Loveridge struggled early, missing seven of his first nine shots, but then hit back-to-back threes to give Utah its first second-half lead, then hit another big three at the start of overtime to extend the Utes’ momentum. He’s had some ups and downs in his first year for the Utes, but he’s a special talent who will eventually, maybe as soon as next year, be an all-conference guy.
  • Richard Solomon continues to be one of my favorite/most-frustrating players in the conference. Dude’s got all the talent in the world, but his motor is often lacking. Case in point tonight: He got 37 minutes of action, probably competed really hard for about 20 of those minutes, and wound up with eight points, 11 boards and three steals.
  • Cal’s Ricky Kreklow, who has missed 24 of his team’s 31 games this season due to a foot injury, played 18 minutes tonight, his most in a game since November, and knocked down two big threes in the first half that kept the Bears sticking around when little else was going right. A lanky wing with a nice shooting touch, it would be a nice addition if he’s good to go without concern for his foot.

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