Pac-12 Team Previews: Utah

Posted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2011

Over the next two weeks, we’ll be previewing each of the Pac-12 teams as we head into the season.

Utah Utes

Strengths.  Size. Oh man, does Utah have a lot of size. Start with a 7’3” behemoth in the middle in David Foster, add 6’10” junior Jason Washburn who can spell Foster or play alongside him, and toss in – well, there’s really not all that much size behind those two. But with those two prowling the lane, the Utes have an imposing frontcourt duo that are a threat to block any shot taken in the paint.

Weaknesses. Where to begin? First, this is an inexperienced squad, featuring three incoming freshman and three junior college transfers who are expected to get time. Second, while the Utes return senior Josh Watkins at the point, he struggled in his first season in Salt Lake City last year, shooting under 30% from beyond the arc while turning the ball over too much. And, lastly (for now at least), even though Foster and Washburn are big, they’re injury-prone, struggle with conditioning and are of limited effectiveness on the offensive end.

David Foster

David Foster Is An Intimidating Defensive Player, But Utah Is Missing Offensive Firepower (credit: Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Nonconference Tests.  The highlight of the nonconference slate is a berth in the inaugural Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas, where they will open with Harvard in the first round before facing either Massachusetts or Florida State on day two, with a third opponent to be determined. Beyond that, there is the in-state rivalry game with BYU, a couple of games at WAC opponents (Boise State and Fresno State) and not much else. Which is good – this team deserves a bit of a break in the non-conference. Read the rest of this entry »

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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.26.11 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2011

  1. While college hoops aficionados might be most interested in seeing how guys like Tony Wroten Jr., Terrence Ross and Abdul Gaddy acquit themselves for Washington this season, there is another name on the Husky roster that might ring more of a bell with casual hoops fans: Shawn Kemp. Sure, there’s a “Jr.” attached to the end of that name, but the son of  “The Reign Man” is ready to showcase his own skills. He’s spent a couple of years since he graduated high school getting his academics in order, but now entering his freshman year, he’ll likely earn some minutes in Lorenzo Romar’s frontcourt this season.
  2. California head basketball coach Mike Montgomery received a clean bill of health this week from his doctors, following a surgical procedure that kept him in the hospital for a day and out of the gym for going on a week now. The nature of that surgery hasn’t been disclosed, but the Pac-12’s active leader in wins is expected back with the team by the end of the week.  Considering that Montgomery has led the Bears to two NCAA Tournaments, a Pac-10 regular season championship and an NIT in his three years at the school, Cal fans are hopeful that this health scare is a mere blip on their head coach’s radar.
  3. Montgomery’s old school, Stanford, was among the several Pac-12 schools that held public intrasquad scrimmages this past weekend. In two 12-minute halves, the Cardinal offense was still stilted at best, a trait carried over from last year. But freshman guard Chasson Randle made his debut for head coach Johnny Dawkins and scored six points, tying Josh Huestis (winner of the event’s dunk contest), Dwight Powell and John Gage for the high total in the game.
  4. Everyone’s got their own theory as to who should be the favorite in the conference this year, but Arizona head coach Sean Miller’s opinion might surprise you. Miller pegs California and UCLA as the favorites, mentioning the Bruins’ size and the Bears’ experience as the deciding factors. While it’s hard to argue with that stance, one suspects that Miller might just be playing possum a bit, deflecting attention from his young squad.
  5. If there’s one thing that college kids love, it is to get up bright and early in the morning and getting to work, right? Not so much. But new Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak is getting his team out to practice by 7 AM and so far the response is positive. Senior center David Foster sees the early morning routine as a character building exercise, while freshman guard Kareem Storey says practicing first thing in the morning helps the team remain focused. We’ll see how this plan works throughout the season, as the Utes will need all the help they can get in their first Pac-12 season.
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RTC Summer Updates: Pac-12 Conference

Posted by Brian Goodman on July 25th, 2011

With the the NBA Draft concluded and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. The latest update comes courtesy of our Pac-12 correspondent, Andrew Murawa.

Reader’s Take #1

Summer Storylines

  • The More, The Merrier: The Pac-10 is dead. Long live the Pac-12. The conference welcomes in Colorado and Utah for their first season in the conference, the first expansion in the West Coast’s premier conference since Arizona and Arizona State were added 33 years ago. Along with the new teams comes a new schedule – gone is the full home-and-away round robin. While there won’t be divisions in basketball like there are in football, each team will play an 18-game schedule with home and away games against its traditional rival, with six other rotating home-and-away series and four additional single games against the remaining teams. For instance, Colorado and Utah will only play the Southern California schools and the Washington schools once each, while they will play the remainder of the conference twice. While neither of the new schools are expected to make a big splash immediately in the conference, their arrival, coupled with other changes around the conference, such as the huge new $3 billion TV deal with ESPN and Fox that begins in the fall of 2012, makes it an exciting time to be a Pac-12 fan.
  • Is There A Draft In Here?: Last summer, a big story around the conference was the dearth of Pac-10 players picked in the NBA Draft, as just two players from the conference were selected by NBA teams in 2010. After the 21 players that were picked in the conference between the 2008 and 2009 drafts, that was a precipitous fall. And, back before the season started, there didn’t seem to be a whole lot of future high draft picks on the horizon. However, the conference had six players picked in the NBA draft, including three first-rounders and two lottery picks. Derrick Williams, the 2010-11 conference player of the year, led the way, getting snapped up by Minnesota with the #2 overall pick. Unfortunately for teams around the conference, 12 seasons of eligibility were left on the table between those six picks and the two early entries who went undrafted: Stanford’s Jeremy Green and Washington State’s DeAngelo Casto. And as a result, what had looked like a potential big-time bounce-back season for the conference now sees somewhat diminished expectations. Perhaps no team was hit harder by early defections than UCLA, who had Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee leave a total of three years of eligibility behind to go get second-round NBA draft picks (and the absence of guaranteed contracts that goes with them) at a time when the NBA labor situation is highly in doubt, but Washington State’s loss of Casto and lottery pick Klay Thompson also leaves the Cougars’ situation fuzzy at best.
  • Replacing Production: Between the early entries to the NBA Draft and departed seniors, the Pac-12 loses its top seven scorers from last season, and 11 of its top 20. Likewise, ten of the top 20 rebounders are gone. However, as always, a new batch of youngsters is ready to show up on campuses this fall and begin contributing immediately. While the Pac-10 inked only nine of the ESPNU top 100 recruits, seven of those players are exciting young guards, all ranked in the top 60 on that list. Arizona leads the way, signing point guard Josiah Turner (#14 overall, according to ESPNU) and Nick Johnson (#21), to go with a couple solid frontcourt signees (Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson, #60 and #91, respectively). But Washington (Tony Wroten, Jr., #16), Oregon (Jabari Brown, #25), Arizona State (Jahii Carson, #49), UCLA (Norman Powell, #51) and Stanford (Chasson Randle, #59) all have their own big backcourt recruits ready to provide a burst of energy.

Derrick Williams' performances were one of the highlights of the 2010-11 season.

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