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Some Runnin Utes Hoops in July

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It’s July..So of course I’m sure we all have college hoops on the mind right? Why not..The Runnin Utes are coming off their best season in more than a decade and the future looks brighter. On Monday, a college hoops insider from CBS Sports, Jon Rothstein, took to social media giving his summer thoughts on the upcoming Pac 12 Men’s Basketball Season. There was lots of talk of the rises of Cal Hoops and a slight decline of Arizona Hoops. There were mentions of Oregon State as a sleeper and UCLA being a question mark. What seemed to be missing from the tweets and conversation was any real mention of the University of Utah, a Sweet 16 team that loses very little from last season. I found that to be interesting…

Now admittedly I come at this with a slight bias but I see very little chance that Utah isn’t among the Top 3 teams in the Pac 12 this upcoming season. They didn’t have a splashy offseason like Cal or Arizona, but what they added in recruiting “stars” the Utes return in talent and experience.

Here’s why I like Utah to remain a Top 3 Team in the Pac 12 this season:

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1. Jakob is Back: The decision to return to Utah and turn down what would have likely been millions in the NBA this summer cannot be undersold for Larry Krystkowiak and his staff. Poeltl gives Utah a dominant post defender and an emerging post offensive presence. The offense will likely run through him this season. He’s hungry and already putting in the work, as evidenced by the glowing reviews of his efforts at the Nike Skills Academy in June. Coach K thinks he can be a Top 7 pick in next year’s NBA Draft. Minor tweaks to his game (Free Throw shooting especially) will be huge for Utah.

2. Shooters Everywhere: Having an future NBA Big Man is great, but the college and pro game in recent years (see Duke and Golden State this year) have trended towards shooting, spacing and stretching the defense. Utah will not lack in that department this season. Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge, Dakari Tucker, Brekkott Chapman, Kenneth Ogbe, plus newcomer Lorenzo Bonam, all give Utah three point shooting options and the ability to stretch the floor. Utah was a good three point shooting team last season, I would expect that to continue this year.

3. Defense and Effort Travel: The one thing that has been a constant since Larry Krystkowiak took over at Utah 5 years ago has been the intensity with which his teams play on the defensive end of the floor. The loss of Delon Wright will certainly take some adjusting on both ends for the Utes, but Taylor, Tucker, Wright, Poeltl and the additions of Bonam and Bealer should provide Utah with more than enough athleticism to carry on the legacy of tough defense at Utah.

Just a few thoughts. I’m not sure exactly where Utah will finish this season. But I don’t see any real reason that they shouldn’t be amongst the top teams in the Pac 12 again this season, despite what some in the National Media may believe.

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