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Pac-12 Basketball Team Preview: Utah Is A Team At A Crossroads In The Conference Hunt

The Utes have some intriguing pieces scattered across their roster.

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Oregon Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

Utah Utes

  • Last Season: 20-12 (11-7)
  • Head Coach: Larry Krystkowiak (7th Season)
  • Projected Media Poll Finish: 7th (129 Points)
  • Leading Returner In Scoring: David Collette (13.6 PPG)
  • Leading Returner In Rebounds: David Collette (5.1 RPG)
  • Leading Returner In Assists: Sedrick Barefield (2.0 APG)

The Skinny

When you hear the phrase “big man culture”, the emphasis of a multitude of college football teams comes to mind much before any roster in college basketball ever does. However, in the case of the Utah basketball program, “big man culture” has been a staple of 6’ 10” head coach Larry Krystkowiak’s program since he took over the Utes back in 2011, as his rosters have regularly been anchored by towering front-court presences that rank among the best in the league. Heading into the 2017-2018 campaign, that seems to be where Utah will once again hang their hat, with a reworked roster that will try to find their place in the thick of the Pac-12 conference pack.

While the Utes say goodbye to forward Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers), who bounced from the Beehive State for his shot in the NBA, they do return another list of developing front-court options that will be led by former Utah State transfer David Collette (13.6 PPG). Collette is the team’s returning leader in scoring and rebounds who will be the focal point of the group’s offense, at least until the back-court situation begins to level itself out. However, Collette will be far from working alone up front. Key players like veteran Tyler Rawson (6.0 PPG) and seven-footer Jayce Johnson (4.0 PPG) will give Utah a deep core to rely upon in Krystkowiak’s forward-friendly offense.

NCAA Basketball: Pac-12 Conference Tournament California vs Utah
Forward Tyler Rawson will need to take a major step forward this season for the Utes.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Where things still need to be ironed out for Utah is at the guard spots, where options are available but roles and impact-levels are still up in the air. The Utes lost two key guards in this year’s equation in Devon Daniels (North Carolina State) and JoJo Zamora (New Mexico State) to transfer, on top of already trying to replace the graduating Lorenzo Bonam (12.5 PPG). Utah now must need former SMU transfer Sedrick Barefield (9.0 PPG) to become a crucial stand-out with the ball in his hands and simply get more out of Parker Van Dyke (4.6 PPG), who had his glimpses of improvement a season ago. A mix-and-match group of freshmen, including three-star prospects Devante Doutrive and Christian Popoola, may have to also log some pivotal minutes as well.

However, a player who could become Utah’s most important talent may be Long Beach State graduate transfer Justin Bibbins (13.1 PPG), who is expected to be given “carte blanche” from Krystkowiak to lead the whole roster from the get-go. Bibbins, who Beaver Nation will remember for his 16 points and 6 assists effort in a win over Oregon State last year for the 49ers, could be one of the league’s breakout talents, even after an inauspicious start to his summer with the squad.

Player To Know: David Collette (SR)

One of the most consistent players in the country, when forward David Collette was on the court for the Utes last season (besides the 10 games he missed), the 6’ 10”, 220-pounder literally scored in double-figures in every contest except for one, while also averaging 5.1 rebounds per contest along the way. It’s that kind of steady production that developed him into the Utes’ best overall player and the top option for Krystkowiak throughout the 2016-2017 season. Where Krystkowiak may need more from Collette this time around is in terms of leadership, as the enigmatic depth chart behind the towering talent is the main reason that Utah was picked seventh in the preseason media poll.

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Stanford
David Collette is on track to becoming one of the league’s best overall talents.
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Key Non-Conference Games

  • 11/16 v. Missouri
  • 12/5 at Butler
  • 12/16 at BYU

15 Days ‘Till OSU Basketball Countdown