Editor’s Note: Some of you will want to make this about my feelings about Utah hoops in the past. Stop it. While I have problems with a great many things that went on, and will discuss them at another time, this is about giving a basketball preview that isn’t all seashells and balloons like nearly every one I’ve seen. Enjoy.
I know you’ve all been waiting for this one.
The Larry Lapdogs right now are reading this just to see how mean I’m going to be about Utah basketball. Then they’ll call me a liar and say they trust the coaches.
Before you give them any seriousness, I want to toot my own horn for a moment. Two years ago, the Lapdogs were trying to tell us Anthony Odunsi and Kareem Storey were going to be surprises. And they are gone.
Before last season, I simply pointed out that I had actually seen Glen Dean a great deal and that he was a Big Sky point guard who struggled against Pac-12 talent. I also pointed out that Aaron Dotson had every opportunity at LSU and never averaged more than 7 PPG. The Lapdogs told us that both were awesome and Larry would coach ‘em up and they’d lead us to the promised land.
And they are gone.
So, when you hear people call me a hater, realize I’ve been pretty on about this hoops team so far.
And that leads me to this season. And when you look around it seems there are a great many people willing to blow as much smoke up your ass about this team as you want. So I’m not going to do it. I will say, I’m not displeased with this basketball team and there are reasons for a bit of optimism. But for the people who are running wild with that optimism, I’m going to point out a bunch of places that could derail this team.
1. The Schedule- The OOC schedule is inexcusably horrible. Stew Morrill is making fun of how bad it is. Now there are a bunch of people media member included, running around trying to claim it doesn’t matter. They’re wrong. One of our problems last year was the horrid schedule meant it was not clear who the real players on the team we’re and it led to a horrible Pac-12 start. I’d bet we start horrible again because of the step up in competition.
2. The Bigs- Last year, we played so many bad teams, it was not clear to the coaches that Lenz and Bachynski were not ready for prime time until we’d dropped a bunch of Pac-12 games. Somehow Lenz is starting again, Olsen isn’t and it just might be a lesson we don’t learn till we’re 0-5 in the Pac-12.
3. Delon Wright- No less than Tony Jones himself declared that Delon was a top 15 Pac-12 player. Now I love Tony Jones (don’t know if you read me Tony but it’s true). But here is something that nags at me about this. Delon went un-recruited in high school and his only other offer in JC was Washington St. Washington and Gonzaga both decided not to offer and OSU didn’t look. Now maybe we stole someone but this is 2013 and not many slip through the cracks like that. We’re counting pretty heavily on him and maybe he’s just ok.
4. Jordan Loveridge- Ok, here come the big attacks, but will you people just listen for one minute. Now I like Jordan Loveridge a great deal. And again Mr. Tony Jones has pointed out that Jordan creates a lot of mismatches. But at the same time, especially because of our lack of bigs, doesn’t his tween-ness create problems for us as well. Jordan’s too short to defend big fours and too slow to defend fast threes. And won’t this be a problem against the top third of the league especially?
5. Brandon Taylor and Dakari Tucker- Now, it seems both of these guys are going to be starters, but a year from now I wouldn’t be surprised if both of these are gone in a year. Now everyone freaks out when i say this, especially about Taylor. But think, every since we signed Taylor we’ve been trying to recruit over him and he’s here largely because we missed. Now the kid from Boise is coming a year from now and if he’s anything we’ll want him backing up Wright (who will run the point). And a year later we’ll want him starting. Kuzma and Chapman will almost certainly move into the starting lineup as well (if not why did we bother signing them). It means either Taylor is happy playing backup minutes for his last two years or he leaves.
Tucker’s situation becomes even worse. There may be no time at all next season. And quite frankly if these two do keep seeing big minutes, Utah will not be successful, certainly not as much as we want them to be.
First, I have to say something. A lot of people claim we should be wildly excited because of the Pac-12 tournament success. I have to point this out. For 15 years under Rick Majerus, to a person Utah fans said conference tournaments were meaningless. Now it’s the most important thing ever. In 1997, an Elite Eight Utah team was a Keith Van Horn tip away from losing to SMU. And we only won in the Pac-12 tourney because several USC players got in a fight outside of a Spokane diner. So stop mentioning those games as signs of progress.
So what does that mean for this Utah team. First if we lose any preseason game to teams not named BYU or Boise. And quite frankly, if this team is really progressing, it’s time to beat BYU. Their only big is a freshman and Davies is gone. Quite frankly anything less than 10-2 is an embarrassment and it should really be 11-1.
In the Pac-12, watch where we are after our first 6 games, the Oregon schools at home, at the Washington schools, the LA schools at home. If we’re 3-3 or better there will be reason for optimism, if it’s 2-4 or God Forbid worse, well there is really reason for concern. What bothers me, is even if we’re 12-0 coming out of the preseason we won’t know what this team is.
I think for it to be a real sign of progress, we need to win at least 7 and probably 8 Pac-12 games. So anything less than 17-18 wins is disappointing. And on the upside 21+ would be a sign of real success. Quite frankly I think we’ll be right around 17-18 wins. The Lapdogs will call this awesome and claim Larry is a saint when it fact it’s pretty much the bare minimum to keep going forward.