Pac-12 M5:11.08.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on November 8th, 2012

  1. Pac-12 basketball exhibition games are generally meaningless affairs where a big school beats up on an overmatched foe while the former’s head coach tinkers around with different lineups and different styles. Usually the Pac-12 team wins going away and no one loses too much sleep about the result one way or the other. Still, valuable information can be gleaned from some of these games: Which returnee has made the biggest strides, which of the newcomers can make an impact early in their careers, and who is getting passed up for playing time? For Arizona, with three new and talented freshman big men, sophomore forward Angelo Chol is battling for a spot in the lineup and he’s had some struggles in the team’s two exhibitions. He’s missed some point-blank shots and has lost some confidence, but head coach Sean Miller is still relying on him to earn minutes while senior leader Solomon Hill is doing his best to keep Chol’s head in the game. Hill, on the other hand, was nearly flawless in his latest outing against Chico State (an Arizona win, 98-60) , with only a late missed free throw and a single turnover as blemishes on his performance.
  2. We’ve all got our favorite Pac-12 blogs, but one of my personal favorites is Coug Center. There are times when it seems like you’ve got to hunt down information about Washington State, and over the years I’ve found Coug Center to be by far the best place to keep up to date with all things WSU. While football is still king there (and a lot of other places) for the time being, Kyle Sherwood, Jeff Nusser and Craig Powers did a great job running down their thoughts on the upcoming season. In light of the Reggie Moore dismissal, topic number one was who will play point guard and they’ve got no better answer than anyone else, other than the fact that Royce Woolridge, DaVonte Lacy and Mike Ladd are going to be forced into a lot of minutes and a point guard-by-committee situation. Who knows, it could work, but just remembering Arizona State last year without any real point guard leaves plenty of room for doubt.
  3. We’ve talked in the past about Utah’s complete remaking of its roster, and there is little doubt that Larry Krystkowiak has upped the talent level there. But with many other programs around the conference improved as well, the question remains whether his new roster will result in additional wins. Based on a ridiculously week non-conference schedule, one would hope the Utes would be able to notch at least six wins prior to conference play, but can they improve on last year’s three Pac-12 wins? Many around the conference are picking Utah at the back of the pack — they were 12th in the preseason Pac-12 poll — but with capable offensive players like Jarred DuBois, Aaron Dotson and Jordan Loveridge as well as a deeper bench than the Utes have had in a couple of years, you can probably expect their improved talent to be reflected in their final record, even if they’re still almost certainly doomed to a lower-division finish.
  4. Back on the recruiting trail, UCLA landed three-star wing Noah Allen in the Class of 2013 on Tuesday. A one-time Harvard commitment, Allen certainly isn’t the type of player that head coach Ben Howland landed last year — Scout.com recruiting guru Evan Daniels calls him “a four-year guy” who is more of a long-term project than an immediate impact player. Interestingly enough, apparently Howland made the offer without ever having seen Allen play in person. We’re guessing that there won’t be any eligibility concerns with this prospect roughly a year from now.
  5. Lastly, we’ll hop across town where USC head coach Kevin O’Neill has named junior J.T. Terrell as the starter at the two-guard, beating out returning starter Byron Wesley for the job. Wesley is still expected to get plenty of run, both in relief of Terrell and at the other wing spot, but, man, sometimes the things that O’Neill says just makes you shake your head in disbelief. “He’s finally starting to play hard,” said O’Neill, inferring that for the longest time, Terrell wasn’t playing hard. O’Neill then went on to say that Terrell is “more intelligent than I thought he was.” Goodness. It makes you wonder if O’Neill thought he was complimenting the transfer player, or if he was going out of his way to get a few jabs in his ribs. Terrell’s certainly a talented offensive player, but you know in order to play for K.O.’s Trojans, you’ve got to be committed to give good effort on the defensive end. I would suspect Terrell’s defensive intensity, or lack thereof, is where these latest back-handed compliments stem from.
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Pac-12 Previews: Utah Utes

Posted by PBaruh on October 18th, 2012

Throughout the preseason, the Pac-12 microsite will be rolling out these featured breakdowns of each of the 12 league schools. Today’s release is the Utah Utes.

Strengths. Although Utah had a terrible season last year with almost nothing going right, their coach, Larry Krystkowiak, took charge of the team and made sure that his players knew he didn’t need them if they didn’t play by his rules. He kicked leading scorer Josh Watkins off the team midway through the season. Although Krystkowiak hasn’t had consistent success yet, he’s a good leader for this young team. The Utes have few strengths on this unproven squad right now. However, Utah will have a lot of size, although it will be of the mostly inexperienced variety. They have some returning scoring and rebounding ability with Jason Washburn, but also welcome transfers Dallon Bachynski and Renan Lenz into the fray. Although Bachynski is raw, he still stands at 7’0″ and Lenz should be able to come in and rebound right away and provide a complement to Washburn. Also, the Utes bring in a promising young ESPN 100 recruit in Jordan Loveridge. He could easily become Utah’s best player as the season develops due to his ability to score in the lane, shoot from the outside, and rebound well for a forward.

Jason Washburn, the best player returning for the Utah Utes, will have to step it up this year for Utah to be competitive in the Pac-12 (AP)

Weaknesses. The Utes’ biggest weakness coming into this season is the fact that they don’t have a core of returning players to rely on. Krystowiak brought in 10 new players between recruits and transfers, but none of these players are coming from notable schools. Consequently, Utah doesn’t yet have the talent to really compete in the Pac-12. Last year, the conference was terrible and still they somehow managed to win only three games in the conference. This year, the conference is better, which doesn’t bode well for the Utes especially since they just lost 7’3” David Foster to the same foot injury that hindered him and kept him out for most of last year. It looks like it’s going to be another long season in Salt Lake.

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Pac-12 Expansion: Prognosis after One Year

Posted by KDanna on October 16th, 2012

Last year was the first season of the Pac-12, as the conference invited in a couple more teams to join the party. The number one reason far and away for expansion was football and the ability to have a conference championship game, but of course, Utah and Colorado didn’t just move their pigskin programs. The Utes’ football team nearly made the Pac-12 championship game last year while Colorado struggled mightily under a first year coach having to deal with a multitude of injuries on his roster, so one could surmise that it was a mixed bag for the expansion teams in the Pac-12 teams on the gridiron.

The Buffaloes were one of the few bright spots for the Pac-12 last season, providing the conference with its lone NCAA Tournament win.

With that criterion, you could say the same about last year’s basketball season, except flip the roles of the schools in question. Despite being picked to finish 10th (tied with Washington State) by the media in the preseason poll, the Buffaloes were an impressive 11-7 in the Pac-12 regular season and stunned most everyone by winning four games in four days to claim the Pac-12 Tournament and snatch up the league’s automatic bid to the Big Dance. On the other hand, Utah had a poor non-conference showing with blowout losses to the likes of Boise State, Fresno State and Cal State Fullerton. The Utes didn’t have much more success in the Pac-12 slate, finishing 3-15 in conference and coming in 11th place.

That said, it wouldn’t be fair to Utah to judge them for eternity based on last season’s performance. It was Larry Krystkowiak’s first season in Salt Lake City and the Utes were without their difference-maker on defense in David Foster (and they’ll continue to be without him this year, too).  And with such a huge roster upheaval this year — only three guys on this year’s team played in a game for the Utes in 2011-12 and six transfers are eligible to suit up — who knows how much one can really expect of the 2012-13 version, though that backcourt should get a huge shot in the arm with three of those transfers in Glen Dean, Jarred DuBois and Aaron Dotson.

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Pac-12 M5: 10.12.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 12th, 2012

  1. One of the things we love about college basketball is that every year, there are loads and loads of teams with brand new looks. You’ve got freshmen coming in and transfers and kids back from injuries. The entire makeup of a team can change from year to year, for better or for worse. This year in the Pac-12 is no different, but in some cases, these changes seem to be a bit more extreme than normal, with several teams across the conference ready to unveil a completely remade roster. Today, as practices kick off around the country, we’ll take a look at five of those teams, beginning with Utah, where second-year head coach Larry Krystkowiak welcomes in a roster that returns just two scholarship players from last year’s 6-25 team. Given the depths to which the talent level plunged in Salt Lake City last year, the remake was desperately needed, and Krystkowiak is certain that the team is ready to be much more competitive. With 10 new scholarship faces on the roster, the battle for time is tight and ongoing, with the head man mentioning that the Ute starting lineup may be a shifting five over the course of the year.
  2. As bad as the Utes were last year, USC was even worse, limping (quite literally) home to a 1-17 record. Along the way, the Trojans turned into the walking wounded with dozens, if not hundreds, of players (overstatement is of use here) lost for the season to injury. But not only does Kevin O’Neill have many of those players coming back from last year’s injuries, but he’s got transfers galore and, all told, plenty of talent up and down the bench. Never one for understatement, O’Neill last season called then sophomore center DeWayne Dedmon a future NBA lottery pick, while this year he is going out on a limb and projecting Rice transfer Omar Oraby as a future 12- or 13-year pro, although USC is still waiting on word from the NCAA as to whether he’ll receive a waiver to be able to play this year. But O’Neill is most excited about getting back the services of senior point guard Jio Fontan, whom he calls the heart and soul of the team.
  3. Washington State’s 2011-12 season was slightly more successful than either of the above teams’, but like both USC and Utah, the Cougs will unveil a new-look squad as well. Brock Motum returns after his breakout junior season, as does returning starter DaVonte Lacy and four other players, but things are going to have to be different in Pullman this season. But despite being minus recently-dismissed point guard Reggie Moore, head coach Ken Bone thinks this will be a better team than last year, with the combo of Lacy and Kansas-transfer Royce Woolridge being an upgrade over the would-be senior. And Bone hopes that the Cougs’ underdog status will help the squad “pull together.” Reading between the lines a bit, it seems I may not be the only one who thinks the loss of Moore could turn out to be addition by subtraction.
  4. Oregon advanced to the NIT last season, but after five graduating seniors and three freshmen transferring out of the program last year, the Ducks were in need of a talent infusion of their own. Enter a five-man freshman class, two junior college transfers, and Rice transfer Arsalan Kazemi (who is appealing to the NCAA for immediate eligibility), and returnee EJ Singler, for one, is excited about the additional size and athleticism added to Dana Altman’s roster. The number of new players could jump to nine once the football season ends, assuming freshman Arik Armstead joins the team in January, but the number could have even been 10. However, junior college transfer Devon Branch opted not to enroll at UO for the fall semester, instead opting to go the Division II route, which would give him one more season of eligibility than he would have had in Eugene.
  5. The roster makeover for Washington is not as massive as in any of the above four stops, but the Huskies are without their two highest profile stars from last season’s Pac-12 regular season champion. Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten Jr. left eligibility on the table when they split for the NBA, but it was no secret that last year’s squad underachieved in part due to chemistry issues that never got fully resolved. Lorenzo Romar commented on Twitter that this team has the chemistry and attitude that the coaching staff appreciates, a remark that seems to draw a direct comparison to last year’s squad. Put on your special glasses and it might as well read: “last year’s team had no chemistry because there were too many guys worried about getting the credit.” There’s still plenty of talent up in Seattle, with proven upperclassmen Abdul Gaddy, C.J. Wilcox and Aziz N’Diaye leading the way, so if the intangibles shift a little in the right direction, the 2012-13 edition of the Huskies could be an improvement on last year’s more talented squad.
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Pac-12 M5: 10.09.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on October 9th, 2012

  1. Way back on April 11, Shabazz Muhammad signed with UCLA, guaranteeing Ben Howland one of the year’s best recruiting classes and boosting the hopes of Bruins’ fans. While there have been some good moments since then (such as when Tony Parker eventually committed to UCLA as well), now nearly six months later, the Bruins are on a bit of a losing streak even though they have yet to play a game. They learned yesterday that returning starter Tyler Lamb will miss at least a month while recovering from knee surgery. Throw that on top of the NCAA investigations into Muhammad and fellow recruits Parker and Kyle Anderson, along with bad news from Joshua Smith’s scale, and there is some concern as to where this season is going. However, on the bright side, Lamb will likely be back soon after the season begins, and even if UCLA plays without him for a handful of games, sophomore guard Norman Powell should be ready and willing to step in and use the available minutes to make his case for more playing time.
  2. As for the other question marks mentioned above, UCLA fans are hoping to get some positive answers. First, on the matter of Joshua Smith’s diet, once again progress is being reported. Though there is still no one that will actually go on record with a three-digit number meant to accurately represent his weight, Smith claims that his body fat percentage is down from 25% when he came to campus two years ago to just 17% today, with a future goal of 10%. Still, at this point, especially given last year’s often lackluster effort, college basketball fans will largely take a wait-and-see approach to Smith’s waistline. Meanwhile, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson have begun preliminary workouts with the Bruins despite the fact that the NCAA has yet to rule on their eligibility. This means (correct me if I am wrong) that for the next 45 days, these guys are eligible to practice with the team and play in games. Once those 45 days expire, either they must be cleared or they must stop working out with the team until their investigations are resolved. The scuttlebutt is that Anderson will be cleared by the NCAA (although, until that actually happens, Bruins fans have every right to be nervous), while any guess on Muhammad’s eventual status is just that, a guess.
  3. Lamb’s knee surgery isn’t the only big injury news around the conference. California head coach Mike Montgomery announced on Monday that sophomore guard Ricky Kreklow underwent surgery on his right foot and will be out of action for up to two months. Kreklow transferred into Berkeley after spending one season at Missouri, where he shot 28.3% from three in limited minutes as a freshman in 2010-11. After sitting out last season per NCAA rules, the former Mr. Basketball in Missouri in 2010 was expected to jump into the Golden Bear starting lineup this season as a three-point shooting specialist, but instead will have to serve as a midseason reinforcement. Coupled with the transfers of guards Alex Rossi and Emerson Murray this offseason, the Bears now find themselves slightly shorthanded in the backcourt, with returning starters Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe being joined by Brandon Smith and freshman Tyrone Wallace. The injury could mean that instead of employing a three-guard starting lineup of Cobbs, Crabbe and Kreklow, Cal could opt to go bigger along the front line. Stay tuned.
  4. Last week, the consensus #1 player in the 2013 recruiting class, Jabari Parker, narrowed his list of potential schools down to five. This is important for Pac-12 fans for a couple of different reasons. First, and foremost, Stanford is one of the quintet of schools remaining as possible landing spots for the versatile wing. Johnny Dawkins already has commitments from the Allen twins (Marcus and Malcolm), but adding an elite recruit the level of Parker would bring a whole different level of recruit to The Farm. The other bit of interest about Parker involves Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak, who apparently was shown on a Salt Lake City television station talking about Parker, a potential NCAA violation. However, Rob Dauster argues that since the Utes no longer stand a chance of landing Parker (the Utes are not among his final five), Krystkowiak can get off on a technicality. Still, the coach should know better.
  5. It’s not all bumbles and stumbles along the recruiting trail for Krystkowiak, however, as the Utah head man continues his pursuit of Michael Williams, a 6’2” point guard out of Texas. He just finished an official visit with the program last week and now will decide between the Utes, TCU and Penn. The fact that those are the other schools in on Williams’ recruitment indicates that he’s not likely to be a player who makes a huge impact, but he is a bigger lead guard than anybody currently on the roster with Glen Dean and Brandon Taylor both checking in under six feet. Krystkowiak already has a couple 2013 shooting guard commitments, while also chasing Las Vegas point guard Julian Jacobs and southern California lead guard Brandon Randolph.
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Wrapping Up The Pac-12′s Summer Exhibition Tours

Posted by Connor Pelton on September 13th, 2012

Seven Pac-12 schools took a foreign exhibition trip this summer. We recap them below with Drew taking UCLA, Utah, and Colorado, and Connor taking the rest.

Not Every Team Went Tropical, But All of Them Learned Something

Arizona

  • Where: The Bahamas
  • When: August 11-13
  • What: The Wildcats swept their two games against Bahamian competition.
  • Why: As Arizona transitions from an NIT one-and-done to having at least NCAA Third Round expectations, this trip was all about integrating instant-impact newcomers Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley, Gabe York, and Mark Lyons into the rotation. Setting lineups and seeing what groups of players meshed well together was much more important than the actual play against less than stellar competition.
  • Who: Lyons and fellow senior Kevin Parrom were the stars of the trip, each averaging 18.5 PPG. The most anticipated freshman to don the cardinal red and navy blue in a while, Tarczewski, scored eight points in each game on the trip. Arizona absolutely destroyed their lowly competition, winning both games by a combined 112 points.

Colorado

  • Where: France, Belgium and the Netherlands
  • When: August 11-22
  • What: The Buffaloes went 2-3 in five games against European professional teams.
  • Why: With CU breaking in six scholarship freshmen, the trip gave head coach Tad Boyle a chance to build camaraderie between the talented new guys and their six returnees from last year’s Pac-12 championship team. The trip also gave the freshmen a chance to build an identity of their own, evidenced by the fact that Boyle sat out the core returnees from last year’s squad – Andre Roberson, Askia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie and Sabatino Chen – in one of the games, allowing five of the freshmen to start the game together.
  • Who: While Roberson was his usual magnificent self – he averaged 14.4 points and 13.8 rebounds – freshman Josh Scott eliminated any doubt that he could be an immediate impact player. Scott led the Buffs in scoring in four of the five games, coming up a point short of the leaders in the opening game; he averaged 17.4 point per game for the trip. His classmate Xavier Johnson also made a statement, averaging more than ten points to go with seven rebounds for the game.

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Utah Week’s Burning Question: Is Larry Krystkowiak the Right Guy For Utah?

Posted by AMurawa on September 1st, 2012

Each week we’re trying to get to the heart of one Pac-12 program by asking the most important question that faces that program. This week, we’ve been profiling a Utah program that is trying to bounce back from an awful season, and along with myself and Connor Pelton, we’ve asked Adam Butler of Pachoops the following burning question:

Over the course of more than 100 years of basketball history, Utah has had one of the most consistently successful programs in college basketball. But, in the last decade, a couple of misses in hiring a head coach have left the Utes scrambling, resulting in last year’s debacle, the worst season in the history of the program. Is Larry Krystkowiak the right guy to return the Utes to their winning ways? And how quickly can he reasonably be expected to turn things around?

Larry Krystkowiak, Utah

After Hitting The Bottom Of The Barrel, Can Head Coach Larry Krystkowiak Lead Utah Back To Relevance?

Adam Butler: The Utes have fallen on some strange times and I have to say I don’t quite know what to make of Larry K. He’s like the Lane Kiffin of college basketball less the arrogance and drama (and I’m not entirely sure where he stands on the wife situation). But let me explain the Kiffin thing. K has bounced around for short stints of moderate success. His while with the Bucks was not glamorous and swift but was an opportunity awarded to a guy with two seasons of college head coaching at Montana where he was 42-20. So I feel like there isn’t a body of work by which to say, “Yes, Larry is the man to get Utah to the fat-guy-in-sweater days.” But he’s intense, he’s young, and he has only one place to go: up. I mean, they held tryouts last season. I like the pieces he’s bringing in and have heard only rave reviews of Jordan Loveridge and that’s where it begins; some recruiting success, diamonds in the rough, and then momentum rolls. Can K do it? Sure, why not, because anything is better than a six-win season.

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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 Week: Players Not Returning

Posted by AMurawa on August 29th, 2012

For the third straight year, Utah underwent rampant roster turnover in the offseason, with six transfers joining one senior (who had been dismissed from the team in the middle of last season) on their way out the door. There is a subtle difference this year, however, as the changes to the roster should benefit the program next season, allowing the new coaching staff to begin building with their own players rather than with the scraps they were able to assemble late in the recruiting period last offseason. In essence, last year was an audition period for all of the players on the roster, determining not only whether the coaching staff wanted each player back, but whether those players were interested in returning to the rebuilding job that is Utah basketball. Below, we’ll take a brief look at all seven players (not including Blake Wilkinson, a freshman last season who departed for an two-year LDS mission in May) from last year who will not return to the Utes.

Josh Watkins – Watkins was dismissed by Larry Ktystkowiak on January 18 last season for an undisclosed team violation which was just another in a long line of issues that brought Watkins to that point. The lone active senior on the roster last season, Watkins was supposed to be an example for his younger teammates, doing all the right things on a team where everything else was going wrong. Still, Watkins played a valuable role for Krystkowiak last year; the dismissal of the team’s most viable offensive threat in the middle of the season showed everybody else that nobody was above the team. Watkins, to his credit, completed his degree in May and acknowledged that despite his dismissal he still regards Krystkowiak as a “great coach.”

Chris Hines, Utah

Chris Hines Was The Utes’ Most Prolific Three-Point Shooter Last Year, But He’ll Be Playing His Senior Year At Drake Instead (Stephen Dunn, Getty Images)

Chris Hines – Following his graduation in May, Hines took advantage of the NCAA rule that allows graduates to transfer without having to sit out a year. As a result, the team’s most prolific three-point shooter from 2011-12 will be matriculating at Drake this season. While an experienced veteran like Hines could always be valuable, the fact that the Utes have transfers Aaron Dotson, Glen Dean and Jared DuBois ready to step in this season lessens the blow considerably.

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Utah Week: Evaluating The Recent Past

Posted by AMurawa on August 28th, 2012

The Utah basketball program is at an all-time low. Last year’s 6-25 record was the worst single season in the history of the program, with a winning percentage below .200. The 1972-73 Ute team that won just eight games was the most recent team in school history to fail to garner at least double-digit wins. You have to go all the way back to 1928-29 to find a Utah team with fewer wins than last year’s squad, and that came in a season with a 17-game schedule. Coupled with the previous two seasons, the Utes now have gone three consecutive years without a winning record for the first time since that same 1928-29 team. All of which combines to make that opening statement — that the Utes are at a program low — fact, not merely opinion.

Rick Majerus, Utah

In The Eight Seasons Since Rick Majerus Left, Utah Has Reached Lows Unprecedented In Program History

The good news is, however, when you reach bottom, you’re usually able to push off and begin a new ascent. Trouble is, for a program with four Final Four appearances including one national title, this team is in previously un-swum waters. After years in the Mountain West or the WAC or the Skyline or Rocky Mountain conferences before those, the Utes are now in the Pac-12, playing against a level of competition higher than they’ve ever seen before. So, in the middle of a time of celebration around the athletic department over the money and exposure that comes as a part of their new conference affiliation, the Utes find themselves having to prove that they are capable of fielding a basketball program that can compete year in and year out with the major program with whom they are now affiliated.

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Pac-12 Weekly Five: 07.20.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on July 20th, 2012

  1. Last year, the Pac-12 and the Big Ten announced plans to enter into a scheduling partnership with each other, with each school in each conference expected to play one annual game against the opposing conference in football and basketball. However, as has become the norm, football had to ruin everything for the basketball side of things. With the Pac-12 committed to a nine-game football schedule, and with teams on both sides wanting the freedom to schedule a sufficient number of cupcakes, the conferences found out that they just couldn’t get things done and scrapped their plans for a scheduling partnership. Unfortunately, the basketball baby got thrown out with the football bathwater, as plans to increase games between the two conferences in roundball have been scrapped as well. This is why we can’t have nice things.
  2. After several years of debilitating spinal problems, former UCLA great Bill Walton will be back behind the mic for ESPN this fall, calling an as-yet-undetermined number of Pac-12 games next season. Five years ago he collapsed due to his spine problems and thought that his “life was over.” But, after several successful surgeries, Walton is back up and ready to start over. While he’s not everyone’s cup of tea as the color man, he cracks me the hell up and certainly never takes himself or the game more seriously than it needs to be taken. Welcome back Bill!
  3. It was a great year for recruiting in the Pac-12 as UCLA and Arizona both scored top five recruiting classes in 2012. But the 2013 class is even more highly regarded and Pac-12 teams are involved with numerous highly-ranked recruits. One of the best of those, San Jose’s Aaron Gordon, confirmed yesterday that Arizona and Washington are his top two choices, with speculation running rampant that it is Washington’s race to lose. The Huskies remain in the hunt for other elite recruits like Jabari Bird and Isaac Hamilton and head coach Lorenzo Romar has staked a lot on landing a big recruiting class in 2013.
  4. The Pac-12’s crown jewel of that 2012 recruiting class is UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, but his Bruin career got off to a rough start as he sprained his ankle playing in a pickup game following his very first workout with the team. Muhammad has been sitting out ever since, but is expected back in action in plenty of time to take part in the team’s August trip to China. That’s key, since head coach Ben Howland has been pointing toward that trip as a chance to jump start the year and get his new pieces all on the same page prior to the start of the regular season.
  5. We’ve discussed that Utah recently released an underwhelming 2012-13 non-conference schedule, but for head coach Larry Krystkowiak, that schedule is all part of a rebuilding process. After a 6-25 year, the Utes are still in the middle of remaking their roster in order to get back to a place where they can compete at a high level again. Despite a host of new players, nobody sees the Utes’ current roster consisting of guys who are going to do that. But with the chance to score some early victories against manageable competition and develop some confidence in their young roster, Krystkowiak and company hope that this weak schedule will get the Utes off on the right foot. Meanwhile, the Utes have committed to restarting their series with Utah State in 2014 after two years off, but Krystkowiak hasn’t been shy about admitting that he’d rather skip the dangerous Aggies whenever possible. However, he did suggest the possibility of a four-team tournament at Energy Solutions Arena in Salt Lake City featuring the four Division I programs in the state: Utah, Brigham Young, Utah State, and Weber State. Yes, please.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 06.15.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on June 15th, 2012

  1. It may be the slowest of slow times in the college basketball year, but there’s always at least something going on. This week, Utah was fairly busy, adding to its staff and adding its second commitment for the 2013 class. First, on the recruiting front, head coach Larry Krystkowiak got good news when Salt Lake City’s own Parker Van Dyke, a combo guard who averaged 25 points per game as a junior on his way to the Utah Class 4A Most Valuable Player award (as named by The Salt Lake City Tribune), committed to the program on Monday, joining point guard Julian Jacobs in the 2013 class. However, there is something of some bad news mixed in with this signing, as Van Dyke expects to serve an LDS mission following his high school graduation, meaning he won’t actually put on a Ute uniform until 2015. Chalk it up to doing business in the state of Utah.
  2. The other change in the Utah program is with the addition of a couple new staff members. First, former Ute player Phil Cullen is returning to campus to become the new director of player development and camps for Krystkowiak. Cullen played for the Utes between 1998 and 2002 and was most recently an assistant coach at Grand Canyon University. The other hire is Charles Stephenson, who will be the program’s first-ever strength and conditioning coach. In the past, the basketball program shared strength and conditioning coach Greg Argust with the football team, but now Stephenson’s responsibility will be entirely with the men’s basketball program.
  3. Oregon State also scored a commitment this week as 7’1” center Cheikh N’Diaye out of Carlsbad, California, announced his attention to attend the Corvallis campus. He’s now the second 2013 recruit to commit to the Beavers, joining point guard L.J. Westbrook, who committed last summer. The big man is a work in progress offensively, but is a monster blocking shots on the defensive end. A native of Senegal, N’Diaye is no relation to Washington center Aziz N’Diaye.
  4. Washington State sophomore forward Patrick Simon announced his decision to transfer out of the program last week. It was a disappointing stay with the Cougs for the sharpshooter, playing just over 400 total minutes in his career and tallying only 152 points. He got off to a rousing start, scoring 27 points in 39 minutes over his first three games (including 5-of-10 shooting from deep), but by the end of the season as his jumper left him, he was getting spot minutes at best. Simon will be better off sliding down the ladder a bit, perhaps winding up at a Big Sky school, or even dropping down to Division II and becoming eligible next year.
  5. Then there’s Oregon, who learned this week that top-100 recruit Chris Obekpa, who the Ducks had been in hot pursuit of, had chosen St. John’s over them. As a result, barring last minute developments, Oregon will have two open scholarships for next season. Also of some note to Oregon fans, former Duck Matt Humphrey, who transferred out of the program in the Ernie Kent-to-Dana Altman transition and played with Boston College last year, is on the move again, on his way to finish up his college career in West Virginia.
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