It’s a Tuesday in July so lets talk Utah Utes hoops. Second, I’ve also made a bet with someone that I couldn’t go for the rest of the month of July without being snarky about Utah basketball, so I thought I’d challenge myself.
Here is what Utah needs to do to make a serious step this year in basketball.
I think that adventure begins with Jordan Loveridge. This year will tell the tale as to whether this young man is simply a very quality player or someone who can make the leap to an All Pac-12 type. He’s lost 25 pounds as he begins his inevitable transition from the 4 to the 3. The questions are, his shot was always a little odd and he seemed to be a streaky outside shooter, will that continue especially with teams who have long 3′s themselves. Second, he’s lost 25 lbs but still might play A LOT of 4. Does that make him less effective there? I think that question will be answered by what happens with…
THE BIGS. Utah has exactly four guys over 6-6. Exactly one of those guys gave us hope last year. Jeremy Olsen showed as the mission rust wore off and Larry began to play him more, exactly why he was such a prized recruit for Jim Boylen oh so many years ago. Olsen taking a step would help Loveridge A LOT.
But what about the rest of them? Bachynski showed that he could dominate as long has the other center was 6-5. Once we started playing teams with real size he struggled mightily. And so did Renan Lenz whom a great many thought would come in and dominate. The fourth guy, Marco Kocacevic is a bit of a mystery. He played at a JC in Nebraska and we stole him from Montana. We need at least one and probably two of these guys to step up in order to be serious.
Other than that, what we have returning is Brandon Taylor and Dakari Tucker. Taylor’s size and Tucker’s general level of talent remain a concern for me. It seemed that Seymour would be the one staying till a missed curfew seemed to put him in the doghouse. A very good Murray State team was willing to take a shot on Seymour, so the jury may still be out. We’ll need both of these guys to continue to prove they belong in the Pac-12.
The fourth piece is Delon Wright. Now a lot of cheerleaders seems to be putting him down as an NBA possibly one and done talent. I urge caution with that. His only other significant offer was Washington St. and both Washington and Gonzaga chose not to offer. What is talent level is will be another big piece of where this Ute team is.
Finally we have the newcomers. Ahmad Fields had offers from Drexel and Ole Miss. Parker Van Dyke will play one year and go on a mission. Princeton Onwas is a JC kid, that they seem to hope will be Martin from last year and finally there is the German kid, Ogbe. He may be great, he may flop as there seems to be some randomness as to how the Euros translate to America. Fields and or Ogbe being able to give minutes would help A LOT.
So What Happens With This Team. If a lot goes right they might be a threat to move into the top half of the conference. But that right there is the big red flag for me. Any time you have to say, and if this and this and this, well chances are all that won’t happen (see Utah Football last year). Plus this is essentially the third time in three seasons Larry will be fielding a team that hasn’t played together at all. That can be slow to develop, if at all.
My sense would be this… Any team that finishes behind us, like Wazzu, Arizona St., Oregon St. is probably going to fire their coach. My sense would be to call for an 8th or 9th place finish depending upon how fast USC adapts to Enfield’s system. If we finish worse than 10th that should set off alarm bells. If we get in the top half and an NCAA birth, Larry should get a one year extension.
And there you have it, a snarkless yet honest review of Utah Basketball