How refreshing does today feel Utah fans? If you worked today (and I did) you were able to walk into the office with head high. The Runnin’ Utes were finally able to win their first road PAC-12 game. After this win, Utah fans have a few reasons to be excited for now and the future.
Between Saturday and today there were a few things that got me excited. So what is there to be excited about now? Not just the win, but how Coach Krystkowiak handled the lineup. He was able to adjust to the game situation impressively and particularly the end of the game. The way he ended the game reminded me of Coach Tom Thibodeau of the Chicago Bulls. (Yes, I am a Bulls fan.) One thing Coach Thibs does really well is riding the hope hand. This is part of the reason the Bulls do so well at the end of games. Coach Krsytkowiak did the same thing on Saturday by leave Dubois out of the game while the freshman, Taylor, was hot and helping the Utes go on to victory. The other thing Coach K does well is defense. The Bulls right now are in a position to go to the playoffs without Derrick Rose the only go to guy on the team. Coach Krsytkowiak is teaching the same thing to this Utah team while they do not have a true go to guy on the team.
So, what is the other reason to be excited. The Future. The Jazz are in the same situation. Both teams have young players just waiting to burst on the scene. The nice thing about the Utes is that the players ahead of the young guys will automatically leave and allow them a shot. The Utes have 4 young players I am excited to watch this year and beyond. Loveridge is obviously the best player on the team with Washburn this year. He has come through big this year in several situations that the Utes needed something, like the critical layup off of a rebound on Saturday.
Obviously, I am also excited about Brandon Taylor. When he has been on the floor for the Utes have played. This was accentuated by the game Saturday when he had 19 pts on 60% shooting and 6 assist. Apparently, this type of shooting is to be expected. In talking about Taylor, Coach Kryskowiak said , “I think in the opportunities he has had in four or five games he has played really well. He has a lot of savvy and moxie and is as good of a shooter as we have on our team. He plays with a lot of confidence and that’s what we needed.” Statistically speaking, I would add Dakari Tucker to the list of young guys to watch because he is one of the most efficient players on the team according to Hollinger’s PER.
The final young guy to keep an eye on it Jeremy Olsen. Coach Krystkowiak said, “I think he’s in better condition, he’s getting up and down the floor better than before. He’s one of our guys in practice who, if you throw the ball in to him in the post, something good is going to happen 70% of the time or more. He is a solid post threat with his back to the basket. He might be the best on our team with his back to the basket. He has an ability to get a shot off. And he has improved defensively. He’s gaining confidence and he’s just been a grinder. He keeps after it, he’s a team guy, and he has put himself in position to play some minutes.” If Coach K is saying something like that about a player I am going to be watching closely to see how he performs.
I hope not too many Ute fans have fallen off the bandwagon this season because it is going to be a fun season to watch. Don’t you want to be the true fan that stuck with the team through thick and thin? Or (putting on my Utah Red colored glasses) who is to say the Utes won’t make some noise this season. They have proven they can hang around with the top teams in the PAC-12. Why not make some noise in the conference tournament?