Before the PAC -12 season began there was a cloud on intrigue around this Utah Utes basketball team. They had done what a decent program should do, obliterate lesser competition. However, no one new what to expect going into the PAC-12 season. The Utes are now a third the way through the conference schedule, less questions, but the program continues to grow.
In an article last year (Rebuilding a College Basketball Program 101), I labeled two things the Utes needed to rebuild this program: Money and Talent. Needless toe say, they are on their way to making this happen. The athletic program is clearly putting in the money with $24+ million going to towards a new basketball facility. They are getting the fan base excited with the 2nd highest attendance in the PAC-12 (2nd to Arizona). Coach Krystkowiak is also getting the talent with major recruit this year like Isaiah Wright, Kyle Kuzma, and Brekkot Chapman. Things are looking bright, but what about this season? Where does it fit in the grand scheme of things.
Roller Coaster Ride
This conference season has been a roller coaster for the Utes. They started the season off well with an overtime defeat to then ranked Oregon and a win against Oregon State. Rationization: Lost to someone they should have, but with a major fight. Then they won a game they were supposed to. Team expectations went too high for what this team is.
Then the trips to the state of Washington happened. Two teams the Utes were hoping to beat. One game with Washington State that many fans were already counting as a win. The Utes struck out on both games by a total of 5 points. Many covering the team went from talking about a possible shot at the tourney to hoping there would be a post season at all.
Insert the SoCal visitors. The Utes win a game against the worst team in conference. Then they upset a top 25 team in UCLA. I would get really excited about this (Don’t get me wrong I am stokes about the win), but the Utah football team showed fans what it looks like to get a big win and just self destruct. So, I am using some self control and dismissing this game as taking advantage of a tired team that can’t handle double doses of altitude. But there are two great take aways from this SoCal week.
Monkey Off the Back
The Utes have four losses on the season at this point. All loses cause by bad execution on Utah’s part. Boise State was a turnover on Delon Wright. Oregon was the turnover by Bachynski. Washington was the corner prayer by Delon Wright. Washington State was the travel by Brandon Taylor.
Then there was the UCLA game. The Utes were able to hold on in the end. The Utes definitely didn’t finish in the style Utah fans would like. However, the players can now remember winning a close one this season. This last week I was speaking to a former Utah athlete about player confidence in regards to it. He seemed to dismiss the idea of needing to finally get the win and move on. So, how much this win really helps the team’s mentality and confidence? We will have to wait and see.
With a big win against UCLA, what is the next thing the Utes need to do to continue growing as a program. Win on the road. I have a checklist in my head for the Utes and the programs progression that started last year:
- Don’t always get blown out. Keep some games close. Check (2012-2013 season)
- Beat lesser opponents. Check (2013-2014 no conference schedule)
- Hold serve on home court. Check (2012-2014, one loss in 16 games at home)
- Beat lower PAC-12 teams.
- Win on the road.
- Advanced to Semifinals of PAC-12 tournament Check (2013 tourament)
There is a lot more stuff done on that checklist than not. Will the Utes be able to complete anything else on the list this season? They will have a chance to do both with a rematch coming against Washington State along with seven more road games.
Where do you think the Utah basketball program is now?