First month features many winnable games

Utah starts the regular season on October 10th and will play five games the first month of the season. They only face one team with a winning record from a year ago and all but one game will be played in Salt Lake City.

The combined 2005-06 record of the Ute's first five opponents is 65-79, with Colorado winning 20 of those games. The other four opponents were just 45-69 last year.

Southern Utah - October 10th
The Utes get a nice opening game when they face a very inexperienced Thunderbird team. Southern Utah returns just one starter off of a 10-win team.

Southern Utah lacks experience, but they are not young. The team us bolstered by five junior college transfers and a few good returning players. Guard Steve Barnes is the lone returning starter and he's a good one. He led the Mid-Continent Conference in assists and was second in assist-to-turnover ratio.

The team was dealt a blow when junior Henry Ukegwu left early to turn pro, but watch out for new starter Justin Allen. Allen averaged 9.1 ppg as a reserve and should be better this year.

at Santa Clara – October 18th
The team that Steve Nash made famous could really use the NBA MVP or a close facsimile. The Broncos were a sub .500 team a year ago and want to improve upon their 13-16 record. They'll have to do that without Travis Nieson, the teams leading scorer and rebound from a year ago.

What they do have is size. Sean Denison and John Bryant split time a year ago but they should play together more this year. Bryant is a 6-11, 330 pound monster in the middle. Mitch Henke can also score and board down low.

There is some talent in the backcourt as well where junior point guard Brody Angley, who shared team MVP honors last year, leads the way for the Broncos. He'll be joined by sophomore Calvin Johnson who can flat out stoke it from the outside.

Colorado – October 21st
The Buffs are the best team the Utes will face in the season's first month. They went 20-10 a year ago but just missed the NCAA Tournament. The Big 12 team returns just five players from last year's team, only one of whom averaged more than nine points a game.

The one returner who did average double figures is Richard Roby. Roby resisted the urge to jump for the NBA and now has a chance at winning Big 12 Player of the Year honors. He averaged 17 points and 5.5 rebounds a game last year and those numbers could climb as the Buffs lost four of their top six scorers from last year's team.

CU's strength is in the backcourt. Joining Roby is senior Marcus Hall who can get hot from the outside. The team's best recruits seem to be guards as well. Xavier Silas, Dwight Thorne and Kal Bay could all push for time, with Silas having the most versatility because of his height.

The frontcourt is both young and inexperienced. There is some size with 6-9 Marcus King-Stockton, 6-10 Sean Kowal and 6-10 Marc Van Burck all expected to see significant time. Kowal and Van Burck are true freshmen and will be pressed into service whether they are ready or not. 6-7 Jeremy Williams could also be counted on to bolster the middle. Rice – October 25
Rice looks to be a team that can compete in the top half of Conference USA. They are led by Marc Almond who increased his scoring average from 7.2 points as a sophomore to over 25 points as a junior. Almond tested the NBA waters but returned to school.

Almond should be getting a lot of passes from point guard Lorenzo Williams. Williams dished out over six assists per game last year.

Weber State – October 29
The Wildcats have a new coach and a lot of new faces. Only two of the top seven scorers from a year ago return. 6-8 forward David Patten was a double figure scorer a year ago, while swingman Dan Henry started just five games last year.

The Wildcats do get a boost from four junior college transfers and will need them to contribute if they hope to have a successful season.


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