Taking a Closer Look at the Runnin' Utes
The Runnin' Utes tipoff their 2013-2014 season by hosting Saint Martin's in an exhibition game this Friday at the Huntsman Center. A once proud program that has been down the last few years is showing signs of rising from the proverbial cellar. Last season ended very well for the Utes as they knocked off then #19 ranked Oregon at home. They followed that up by defeating both the USC Trojans and the California Bears in the Pac-12 Conference tournament. Coach Krystkowiak has a much-improved team this year and the opportunity is there for Utah to make some more noise in the upcoming season.
Projected Starting Lineup:
PG Brandon Taylor
SG Delon Wright
SF Dakari Tucker
PF Jordan Loveridge
C Jeremy Olsen
First off the bench:
Princeton Onwas has a lot of athleticism and displayed some of that at the scrimmage last Thursday. He also showed the ability to push the ball down the floor and put pressure on the defense. If Onwas can be consistent with his jumper and use his athletic ability on the defensive end, he can be a very important piece to Utah's teams
Once Kenneth Ogbe figures out the game of basketball at this level, he's going to be a very special player. Even though it was only a scrimmage, Ogbe stole the show at the Red and White game and gave Ute fans a glimpse of what he can do. If he can develop some consistency with his play from game to game, he is one that can challenge for a starting spot later on in the season.
Renan Lenz has showed improvement so far with his play in practice and has refined his shooting touch. Don't expect him to be a dominant low-post presence for Utah, but with a smaller lineup, he can stretch the floor with his shooting ability.
Because of Dallin Bachynski's size, he will get some playing time. If he can keep it together for an entire season, he can become a huge asset for the Utes. There isn't a dominant big man on this team and it's a position that will be done by committee for Utah. Bachynski has the size and ability to be a problem for the opposition. With less on his plate, Dallin may begin to shine for this team.
Guards: This is the deepest position on the team. There are potentially 8 guys that can play guard for Utah. Brandon Taylor has taken steps forward and seems to be more confident this year. He will have the point guard position locked down, but guys like Wright, Van Dyke and Ogbe could possibly run the point for Utah at times. With the versatility on this squad, mixing and matching different lineups will be interesting to see. Utah has the pieces to play more of an up-tempo style with a smaller lineup, but can also go big and slow the game down.
Forwards: Jordan Loveridge is the obvious leader for this position group. He's lost some weight this offseason and wants to be quicker and more of a versatile player. Much like the guard position, Utah has guys that can play multiple positions. Tucker and Onwas can both play the 2 spot, but can also move over to the small forward position when needed. With Lenz's ability to step out and shoot the mid-range jumper, I could see him getting a lot of time at the power forward position.
Centers: Like I said earlier, this position group will need to be done by committee. There's not one "star" at this position, but if Olsen, Lenz and Bachynski can all carry their own weight, the Utes should be fine. If Marko Kovacevic can come back healthy from his wrist injury, he's also a guy that can help at this position.
This year's team has more options than in years past. If the pieces can mesh together, Utah has the opportunity to be a much-improved team. The two biggest concerns I have are can this team play sound defense consistently and when the Utes are in a close game that's going down to the wire, who can they count on to score points down the stretch. Krystkowiak got to Utah with nothing in the cupboard and has slowly built a team with some depth and athleticism. I've said all along that this team can get to 20 wins and I feel that this roster can get it done. Here's to everyone staying healthy and playing to their own potential.
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