Welcome to The Sports Bank’s second annual college basketball season preview series. Last year we looked at 99 teams in 99 days. This year, we are being slightly more aggressive and expanding to 111 teams in 111 days. We will rank the 74 power conference teams and top 37 mid-majors in reverse power ranking order. We’ll break down rosters, non-conference schedules, and pick a player to watch for each team.
The Utah Utes makes the jump from the Mountain West Conference to the new Pac-12, but faces a long road before they are ready to compete with the best of the west. They come in dead last in our “111 in 111”
Last season: T-6th, 6-10 in MWC, 13-18 overall
Predicted Pac-12 Finish: 12th
Projected Depth Chart
C: David Foster (Sr)/Jason Washburn (Jr)
F: Javon Dawson (So)/Dijon Farr (Jr)/Blake Wilkinson (So)/Alexander Ricketts (So)
G/F: George Matthews (Fr)/Corbin Green (So)
SG: Chris Hines (Jr)/Cedric Martin (Jr)/Anthony Odunsi (Fr)
PG: Josh Watkins (Sr)/Kareem Storey (Fr)
Gone: F-Jay Watkins, G/F-Antonio DiMaria, F-Will Clyburn (transfer-Iowa State), F-J.J. O’Brien (transfer-San Diego State), G/F-Shawn Glover (transfer-Oral Roberts), PG-Chris Kupets (transfer-Cumberland)
As if the transition from a mid-major to a power conference is not challenging enough, Utah also decided to change head coaches this off-season which resulted in four key contributors from last season transferring out of the program.
Welcome to the Pac-12.
New head coach Larry Krystowiak takes over for Jim Boylen, who was fired after four seasons, and inherits a team that has experienced a massive off-season overhaul. The Utes lose five of their top six scorers from last year, four of whom chose to transfer after the coaching change was made.
Point guard Josh Watkins is the lone returning player from that group. After transferring in from Howard Junior College, Watkins led the Utes in assists last season and finished second in scoring. He will be asked to carry the load for a relatively young Utah team.
Chris Hines is the only other wing player back from last year’s team and should see a significant bump in minutes. Freshman small forward George Matthews is a talented scorer and should be a major contributor right away. Fellow freshman Anthony Odunsi and JUCO transfers Dijon Farr and Cedric Martin will likely battle for minutes off the bench while freshman Kareem Storey will be groomed as the heir apparent to Watkins at the point.
The Utes will have size inside with 7-3 David Foster and 7-0 Jason Washburn. Neither big is very athletic or possesses a great skill level, but they should at least provide Krystowiak with a unique tandem of seven-footers who can protect the rim and rebound on the defensive end. Junior college transfer Javon Dawson is a load but somewhat undersized power forward who will likely be an important piece of the rotation.
With nine of the thirteen players on the roster being newcomers, Krystowiak already has his hands full. Add in a more competitive conference from top to bottom and the Utes face a steep, uphill climb if they hope to return to the winning ways of the Rick Majerus days.
You will also notice that Utah State is not on the Utes’ schedule this season. It will mark the first time since the 1944-45 season that the two in-state rivals will not meet.
Player to Watch: Jay Watkins
As the point guard and team’s best player, Watkins will serve double duty for the Utes; setting the table on the offensive end while also being the team’s go-to scorer. “Jiggy” brought stability to the point guard position last season despite a 3.5/3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. He will have to improve his shot selection and decision-making though if Utah has any hopes of not winding up in the cellar of the Pac-12.
Key Non-Conference Games:
11/24-11/26 Battle 4 Atlantis (UConn, Florida State, Harvard, Central Florida, UMass, Charleston, UNC-Asheville)
12/3 at Fresno State
12/10 vs. BYU
12/22 at Weber State
OTHER 111 IN 111’S:
#101 DePaul Blue Demons
#102 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#103 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
#104 Seton Hall Pirates
#105 Providence Friars
#106 Auburn Tigers
#107 South Carolina Gamecocks
#108 Texas Tech Red Raiders
#109 Penn State Nittany Lions
#110 Boston College Eagles
#111 Utah Utes
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a fomer contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.Follow paulmbanks