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.

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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 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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Pac-12 M5: 10.15.13 Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on October 15th, 2013

pac12_morning5

  1. We talked about the Arizona Red-Blue game yesterday, but while some exciting newcomers made their Wildcat debut at that event, one piece in particular still awaits his clearance. Zach Peters did not play in the intrasquad scrimmage, still sidelined as a matter of safety as the Kansas transfer works through the aftermath of five concussions over a 15-month period. While Sean Miller and the Wildcat program remain hopeful that Peters can turn into an impact player as a stretch-four on the potentially outside-shooting-starved squad, they’re making sure to bring him along in small steps, meaning that they won’t rush him back. Thus far, while Peters is practicing with the team in certain drills, he has not yet been cleared for actual contact.
  2. Speaking of contact, we’re going to step outside the strict bounds of the Pac-12 to check in with Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy, who is prematurely complaining about an officiating point of emphasis for this season, the attempt to penalize defenders for using their hands. This point of emphasis came down from the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel, asking officials to call more fouls when a defender keeps a hand on an opponent, when a defender puts both hands on an opponent, or when the defender uses the arm bar. In the Pac-12, a conference that will share officiating oversight with Eustachy’s Mountain West this season, expect this new emphasis to have the biggest impact on programs like Washington, Oregon and Cal, three teams known for their aggressive, physical defense.
  3. Down in Los Angeles, there are a couple of new coaches in the city. Steve Alford replaces Ben Howland in the hot seat at UCLA, and there will be immediate expectations for a team that returns all but two contributors from last season. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports has five big questions for Alford to answer in his first season, but for my money the biggest question is related to his first one regarding Kyle Anderson. Rothstein asks if Anderson can guard small forwards, and while that is certainly a big part of the question marks surrounding Anderson, it is not the full story. Thus far, it appears Anderson is leading the competition to man the point on offense for the Bruins and, after playing off of the ball for most of his freshman campaign, it remains to be seen just how well the UCLA offense can click with the deliberate (the nickname Slo-Mo is not meant to be sarcastic) but talented sophomore manning the helm.
  4. Across town, new USC head coach Andy Enfield is continuing his hot start. He’s already lured in some transfers and beaten those hated Bruins in the battle for Jordan McLaughlin’s commitment, and he shows no signs of slowing down by notching another commitment this weekend. This time it was 6’10″ center Jabari Craig, an athletic center who, while raw offensively, could contribute immediately next season on the glass, in transition, and challenging shots in the middle.
  5. Lastly, we’ll head out to Utah where senior Renan Lenz has apparently jumped to the head of the class in the battle to replace Jason Washburn in the middle. After a disappointing first year in Salt Lake City in which the JuCo transfer earned only 8.6 minutes per game, Lenz has cut 20 pounds, tightened up his body, and improved his athleticism and speed. While guys like Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor are expected to take on the biggest roles in scoring the ball for the Utes, Lenz could turn into a solid contributor by running the floor and doing much of the dirty work in the halfcourt.
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Pac-12 M5: 02.04.12 Edition

Posted by AMurawa on February 4th, 2013

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  1. What a super game yesterday, right? A back-and-forth affair featuring a terrific comeback from an early deficit and tons of great plays made by both teams. Sure, maybe the offenses seemed to do whatever they wanted to against overmatched defenses, but those kinds of games can be plenty of fun. Yeah, that Stanford eight-point win over Oregon State sure was entertaining. Between Eric Moreland’s shotblocking, Joe Burton’s creative passing and Chasson Randle pouring in shots from deep, the Cardinal and the Beavers churned out yet another thrilling game. Please, basketball gods, find a way to match these two squads up in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament; this five-twelve thing these two teams got going on right now will do just fine.
  2. With Stanford now having strung together three straight wins in the span of eight days and somehow dug their offense out of the mothballs in the process, the Cardinal are not a team that anybody wants to see show up on their schedule right now. But does Johnny Dawkins need to keep his team winning in order to get him another season on The Farm? Miles Bennett-Smith of The Stanford Daily asks the hard questions about the likable coach, noting the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances, the failure to show appreciable improvement from year-to-year and losses to teams at the back-end of the conference standings. But, if Dawkins can keep this team playing like it has for the past week, all of these questions can get put on hold again.
  3. Last week we were discussing the possibility that Utah, despite looking like an improved team, might not match last year’s total of three conference wins this year. On Saturday, however, they turned in a strong performance, running out to a big early lead against Colorado (the Utes led by as many as 22) before hanging on down the stretch for a three-point win. Freshman Jordan Loveridge, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, missed the game with a knee injury, but sophomore Dallin Bachynski, who had been taking a “break from competition” for a couple of games due to an issue of a personal nature, did return, earning ten minutes in Loveridge’s absence. Junior college transfer Renan Lenz also got a boost in playing time due to Loveridge’s misfortune, earning the start and 18 minutes, but it was freshman Jeremy Olsen who had the biggest impact in replacing Loveridge, going for 12 points in just 14 minutes of action.
  4. Kevin Parrom was ejected from Arizona’s Saturday night game against Washington State for a “flagrant two” foul on DaVonte Lacy early in the game. Parrom hit Lacy in the fast with a closed hand while fighting over a rebound and was ejected by the officials after they looked at the video. Sean Miller noted he was “very disappointed” with his senior guard and said that Parrom embarrassed himself by retaliating against Lacy for a previous slight. Miller will look at the video and meet with Parrom before deciding on any further potential punishment, with being held out of Wednesday’s home game against Stanford a possibility.
  5. Usually the closer a recruit gets to decision-making time, the fewer schools he has on his list of potential landing spots. But, for elite 2013 recruit Aaron Gordon, he’s going the opposite direction. After trimming his list of suitors to three – Arizona, Washington and Kentucky – late last year, Gordon has now added Oregon to his list, according to Rivals.com. This is, of course, good news for Dana Altman and the Ducks and may reflect positively on what they have done so far this season, but it remains to be seen where exactly he’ll wind up. But, with three Pac-12 schools on the list, we’ll admit that we’re rooting for the chance to get a good look at this guy next season on a tour of Pac-12 stadiums and arenas. Arizona Desert Swarm has a look at the pros and cons of each possible landing spot on Gordon’s list.
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Pac-12 Report Card: Volume IV

Posted by AMurawa on January 30th, 2013

Another week of classes, another week of grades from Professor Pac. As midterms approach, only Oregon is on pace for a A this semester.

Arizona State – A

Way back in June, Herb Sendek was talking about how his new Sun Devil team was going to get out and run and be as uptempo as anybody in the Pac-12. But, since getting run off the court by an athletic DePaul team back in early December, Arizona State had gone eight straight games without getting 70 possessions in a ball game. This past week when they hosted USC and UCLA and came away 2-0, they went over 70 possessions in both games and averaged 76 possessions – and 88 points – for the week. Sure, the USC game was aided by an extra five minutes of play, but the Sun Devils still played with more pace this past week than they have done in some time.

Focus on: Jonathan Gilling. We’ve talked a ton about Jahii Carson and Jordan Bachynski, we’ve touched on Carrick Felix and Evan Gordon on a regular basis, but Gilling is the fifth member of the starting unit, and criminally underrated. While his shooting percentages have dipped compared with his freshman campaign, Gilling is doing everything else better this season. He’s turned into an exceedingly effective rebounder and an underrated passer. He’s one of just two players in the conference to average seven rebounds and three assists per game (the other is Kyle Anderson) and as you could see by this week’s performance when he has 14 dimes, he finds exceedingly good looks for his teammates. Of those 14 assists, eight led to either layups or dunks, while four more ended in threes. And he’s an equal-opportunity distributor; Felix, Bachynski, and Gordon were each on the receiving end of four of Gilling’s assists.

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

While His More Heralded Teammates Get Most Of The Pub, Jonathan Gilling Has Been Great For ASU This Season (Jae C. Hong, AP Photo)

Looking ahead: The Sun Devils are the toast of the conference this week, but with a road trip up north to the Washington schools ahead, things can go south in a hurry. The Cougars and Huskies may not be the most intimidating opponents, but they’re more than capable of knocking off the Sun Devils.

Colorado – A

Don’t look now, but after an extended hangover effect following the debacle in the desert, the Buffaloes have won three straight by an average of 13 points and are back to .500 in the conference. And while the offense has been steadily improving, they’ve been doing it with defense. They’ve held their three opponents in that win streak to a 40.5 eFG%.

Focus on: Xavier Johnson. Doomed to play roughly the same position as the nation’s leading rebounder, Andre Roberson, Johnson has been lurking in the shadows somewhat most of the year. But on Sunday, when Roberson was limited to just two first half minutes due to foul trouble, Johnson had his breakout game, notching his first double-double of his career and scoring 18 points on just ten field goal attempts. In fact, over the course of this Buff winning streak, Johnson has been a major contributor. He’s scored in double figures in every game and has been hyper-efficient; he’s averaging 14.3 points per game and shooting a 74 eFG%.

Looking ahead: The Buffs have a short week, with only a trip to Salt Lake City to face a Utah team coming off its worst performance of the season. If the Buffs don’t have a four-game win streak at this point next week, they may be the recipient of the year’s first F.

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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: 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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