Head Coach: Larry Krystkowiak
Overall Record: 26-8
Conference Record: 13-5 (2nd in the Pac-12)
2015-16 Pomeroy Rating: #33 (4th in the Pac-12)
2015-16 Sagarin Rating: #28 (3rd in the Pac-12)
Overall Off. Adj. Efficiency: #26
Overall Def. Adj. Efficiency: #60
Overall Scoring Average: 77.2 ppg (6th)
Overall Scoring Defense: 69.5 ppg (4th)
Conference Scoring Average: 73.2 ppg (7th)
Conference Scoring Defense: 66.2 ppg (1st)
In a matter of five years, Larry Krystkowiak has completely transformed a seemingly hopeless program in Salt Lake City into a Pac-12 powerhouse. Indeed, so complete is Krystkowiak’s revolution that most experts still think of Utah as a probably NCAA Tournament team this season despite losing 7 of his top 9 players, and without having any major blue chip prospects to take their place. That is because the program the West’s Coach K has built now appears self-sustaining, with new faces emerging on an annual basis to plug in for the departed ones.
Make no mistake, this season will be tricky. If Utah was attempting to field a team strictly from guys who were on the roster this past season, here is what the Utes would be looking at:
Kyle Kuzma: 25.1mpg, 12.0 pts/30mins, 6.9 rebs/30mins
Lorenzo Bonam: 27.7mpg, 10.6 pts/30mins, 3.5 rebs/30mins, 3.3 asts/30 mins
Gabe Bealer: 6.8mpg, 11.7 pts/30mins, 4.4 rebs/30mins
David Collette: 25.0mpg, 14.0 pts/30mins, 5.9 rebs/30mins (stats from Utah St. spring 2015)
Sedrick Barefield: 3.2mpg, 0.0 pts/30mins, 7.5 rebs/30mins, 3.8 asts/30 mins (stats from SMU fall 2015)
Jayce Johnson: no college experience
The Back Court:
If you look at the players who composed Utah’s perimeter offense last season that are no longer with the program — Brandon Taylor, Isaiah Wright and Jordan Loveridge — none of them are NBA caliber players; their athleticism doesn’t jump off the screen. They were simply well-coached, experienced, methodical player who executed Utah’s offense to precision and played tough, fundamentally sound defense. There is no reason that JoJo Zamora, Devon Daniels and Sedrick Barefield shouldn’t be able to do the same types of things this season, if they work hard and listen to Krystkowiak. Daniels and Barefield might be the most athletic guards Krystkowiak has recruited outside of Delon Wright.
But the key figure in the back court, and the guy who bear the scoring load, will be Lorenzo Bonam — the tough-minded combo guard who established himself as a kind of slasher/jack of all trades hybrid last season. With the compliment of player Bonam had, he could afford to pick and choose his spots; as a result he shot over 51% from the field. This season, Bonam will have to take the lead more, including with ball handling (last season, Bonam averaged 3.3 assists per game (a fairly remarkable number for a guy shooting over 50%).
The Utes also add former Utah high school player of the year, Parker Van Dyke, a classic swing man jump-shooter, who spent his last two years on a Mormon Mission, as well as juco Tim Coleman from Lee College.
The Front Court:
Well into this preview and this is the first time we are mentioning the name Jakob Poeltl. The guy only averaged 17 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks+steals per game last season; one would think him being gone is worth a mention …. and it is. Of course, if Utah still had Poeltl they’d be a conference favorite up there with Oregon. With Poeltl gone, Utah’s chief offensive threat in the front court will be Kyle Kuzma, the one time Top 150 recruit who has impressed in both season at Utah. Like Bonam, Kuzma does a little bit of everything, from guarding the rim, to driving the basket, to offensive rebounding, no the occasional post move, to knocking down outside jumpers. The 6’9″ Kuzma has long arms, is athletic and can play both forward positions.
Interestingly, Kuzma’s front court mate, once he’s eligible, will most likely be Utah St. transfer David Collette, a similar style hybrid forward. Collette had a big freshman year at Utah St.; so big that he decided that Utah St. was a bit too small for him.
Neither Kuzma nor Collette are really centers in Krystkowiak’s system. And, with Chris Reyes and Brekkott Chapman both transferring out, Utah will need to rely either on one time Southern Utah big man Tyler Rawson or Jonah Mathews’s former teammate at Santa Monica, Jayce Johnson, to fill in down low. The springy Rawson may be more ready to go at this point, though Johnson is already 19 years old.
There is a pretty strong case to be made that Kyle Kuzma and Lorenzo Bonam were Utah’s 2nd and 3rd best player last season; combine that with Utah’s recent success, and it’s unwise to bet against Krystkowiak in the Pac-12.
Whether Utah can make a strong run, win 25 games again, and get to the NCAA Tournament will ultimately depend on how the other pieces to the puzzle progress — key among those will be Collette and Barefield, who were co-MVPs for the winning team in Utah’s Red-White Scrimmage, but don’t become eligible until December.
G Lorenzo Bonam
G JoJo Zamora (Sedrick Barefield)
F Kyle Kuzma
F Tyler Rawson (David Collette)
C Jayce Johnson
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