Here we sit in Mid-July, less than two months away from College Football, but less than four months away from the start of College Basketball Season.
The University of Utah is coming of it’s second consecutive 25+ win season and NCAA Tournament appearance. However, there has been a good deal of turnover in the Utah program this offseason, in the form of graduates and transfers, that has some Utah fans unsettled about the state of their program. Gone are graduates Brandon Taylor, Dakari Tucker and Jordan Loveridge, plus NBA early entry Jakob Poeltl. In addition, Isiah Wright (San Diego), Chris Reyes (Pepperdine), Kenneth Ogbe (Perhaps UVU), Brekkot Chapman (Weber St.) and Austin Montgomery (Dixie St.). On the surface, it looks like an exodus. But in actuality, Wright, Reyes, Ogbe and Montgomery all left for lesser programs and more playing time, while Chapman felt the need to be closer to home in Ogden due to personal reasons. All those players were recruited to the Utah Program when the program was still rebuilding. Now, five years into the Pac 12 and Larry Krystkowiak era, the program is at a different spot and the skill level required to compete is now on a different plane.
For those that follow the program and the conference closely, one thing has certainly become clear over the last couple of seasons..Utah needed more toughness and athleticism on the wings and in the backcourt. Krystkowiak and his staff maximized what they had with their initial recruiting classes, but in both the Pac 12 Tournament and NCAA Tournament the last two seasons, Utah was a time overmatched athletically. This was a big area of focus in bringing in the new faces this offseason. Tim Coleman (Lee JC), Jo Jo Zamora (Yuba JC) and Devon Daniels (Prolific Prep) are all tough/athletic backcourt players that can mix with Lorenzo Bonam and Sedrick Barefield in the backcourt.
The front court will see an even bigger change without a returning player at power forward or center. Only Kyle Kuzma and Gabe Bealer at the wing have any experience with Utah. While the experience may be lacking at Utah, Collette (All MWC Freshman at Utah St.) and Rawson (JC All American at SLCC) bring a wealth of toughness and experience to go with Redshirt Freshman Jayce Johnson (Top 75 recruit), who practiced but didn’t play year ago. The frontcourt wildcard will be Jakub Jokl, a 6-11 freshman from the Czech Republic, who won’t arrive on campus until August.
My biggest question (aside from chemistry) will be perimeter shooting. Last year’s strength, is this coming season’s biggest question mark for now. Who will stretch the floor and create spacing? The only proven shooting commodity on the roster is return missionary, Parker Van Dyke. Kuzma has been working tirelessly on his perimeter shooting this summer, but who among the new faces will emerge?
There will be 9 new/key faces and really just 2 players returning with any real game/Pac 12 experience on their resumes. Here’s how I see the Depth Chart (excluding walk-ons) looking heading into the fall:
Off Guard-Coleman/Zamora/Daniels/Van Dyke
The key to this Utah roster is flexibility. Lots of interchangeable parts and possible lineup combinations. One more note, Utah will not have David Collette until after December 17th and potentially Sedrick Barefield on that same timeline. Which means Jokl will likely see sometime early and Zamora could likely see time backing up Bonam at the point.