#104 Utah: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #104
Conference Rank: #6 Mountain West Conference
2009-10: 14-17, 7-9
2009-10 postseason: none
Coach: Jim Boylen (56-42 at Utah, 56-42 overall)
The mass exodus out of Utah does not bode well for Coach Jim Boylen, but this could be a case of addition by subtraction. Sure the top three scorers are gone, but this was never a team that thrived offensively. The bevy of newcomers can do enough scoring to pick up the slack and as long as they buy into the team philosophy and play some solid defense, this Ute team will be better than the more experienced team of a year ago that disappointed so many by finishing 14-17.
Key Losses: G Carlon Brown, G Luka Drca, G Marshall Henderson, F Kim Tillie
With all the defections, Coach Boylen hit the junior college ranks hard and came away with two point guards and two wings. Chris Kupets is more than just a ballhandler though and he could emerge as the scoring threat this team needs. That would leave Josh Watkins as the likely candidate to take over the point guard duties, although he will have some competition from incoming freshman Preston Guiot. Will Clyburn and Antonio DiMaria can do some scoring from the wing and both have good size and versatility. Incoming freshmen Josh Fuller and Dominique Lee will add even more options on the perimeter. The lone big man coming in is Neal Monson. With the talent in front of him, Monson will not be asked to do much as a freshman except gain a few pounds of muscle.
Chris Hines will not give up the point guard duties to one of the newcomers without a fight, but after playing fewer than nine minutes per game last year, he will likely remain on the bench. Shawn Glover and Jace Tavita both started some games last year and could step back into a starting role. Glover is a better scorer and has more potential in that regard, but if the newcomers can score, Glover will not need to attack the basket. However, if his outside shot improves, there is room in the rotation for the 6-7 sophomore. The more important piece to the puzzle is Tavita. While he is not a scorer at all, Tavita is a great perimeter defender and a good team player who will find his teammates on the other end of the floor. That is why he started 19 games despite averaging a mere 1.4 points per game and shooting an ugly 18.2 percent from beyond the arc and 29.1 percent overall.
Tavita is not the only player on the team who plays great defense. David Foster is the conference’s reigning Defensive Player of the Year after blocking 4.0 shots per game and altering countless others. The 7-3 center is not a great scorer, adding to the team’s offensive woes, but he is an upperclassman now and should be able to increase his scoring output a little bit and at least become somewhat of an interior scorer threat. Jason Washburn is another seven-footer who can block some shots. Having one of those two guys on the floor at almost all times makes it extremely tough for the opposition to get anything going in the paint.
Who to Watch:
The scorer in the frontcourt is Jay Watkins. After spending most of last season coming in off the bench, Watkins should step into a starting role. The 6-8 senior is the team’s top returning scorer at 9.2 points per game and he will be the guy who forces the opposing defense to collapse in the paint and give the new players on the perimeter some open looks. Any help he can get from Washburn and Foster is just a bonus.
Yet, last year the perimeter players often missed their open shots anyway. That has to change this time around and it really cannot get much worse after Utah shot very poorly as a team from the floor. There is nowhere to go but up and Coach Boylen has some players to pick and choose from to find the right players who will fit into the system and knock down those open looks. It may be slow going at first, but this is a team that should be able to turn out a winning record and get an invite to a postseason tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Josh Watkins, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Chris Kupets, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Jace Tavita, Junior, Guard, 1.4 ppg
Jay Watkins, Senior, Forward, 9.2 ppg
David Foster, Junior, Center, 4.7 ppg
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