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Utah basketball 2015-16 season preview

Utah Utes

2014-15 record: 26-9, 13-5 in the Pac-12 (Sweet 16)

Head coach: Larry Krystkowiak

Tenure at Utah: 5th season

Career coaching record: 110-83 (.570)

Home court: Jon M. Huntsman Center

Starters: C Jakob Poeltl, F Jordan Loveridge, F Chris Reyes, G Dakarai Tucker, G Brandon Taylor

Bench: F Brekkott Chapman, G Lorzeno Bonam and G Isaiah Wright

Overview: The fifth year of the Krystkowiak era begins in Salt Lake City without guard Delon Wright, who left the Utes after just one season to join the ranks of the NBA. Utah ended its 2014-15 campaign with a narrow Sweet 16 loss to Duke, capping the program's most successful season since 2004-05. The man whom many in the college basketball world refer to as “the other Coach K” has successfully transformed the program into a winner and despite the loss of Wright, the Utes maintain a strong core, returning their other four starters.

Sophomore center Jakob Poeltl, the Austrian 7-footer who was projected as a first-rounder in the 2015 NBA draft, returns to lead a talented Utah front line. Poeltl was named to the PAC-12 All-Freshman team last year and will be a defensive presence yet again this year. His 63 blocks set a Utes freshman record and gave him an average of 1.9 per game, good for third in the conference. With Wright being the dominant scoring force last year, Poeltl was seldom relied on for offense, but his development as a post scorer will be vital in the upcoming season.

Brandon Taylor, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, is also expected to take over as Utah’s primary threat to put the ball in the basket. In the past, Wright often found himself slashing to the basket, but this senior from Los Angeles excels as a shooter. His efficient 44.5 shooting percentage from the field should carry into this season, but his 43.9 shooting percentage from beyond the 3-point arc will be key for the Utes to be able to score with their opponents. Although Utah struggled to score the ball at times in 2014-15, its opponents’ average of 57.1 points per game—the eighth-best mark in the nation—allowed it to win many games on the defensive side of the ball.

One thing that needs to go right: Someone needs to step up and assert themselves as an offensive threat for the Utes. Delon Wright’s 14.5 points per game in 2014-15—more than 20 percent of the team’s total scoring—is now gone. Even though Utah’s balanced attack enables it to have a variety of options on any given night, they need to find a new dangerous and consistent scorer.

One thing that could go wrong: Poeltl, Loveridge and Reyes all showed in last year’s NCAA loss to Duke, that against top competition, they struggled to score down low. The three combined for just 15 points and 13 rebounds in the game. Although the Utes won’t be facing the national champions on a nightly basis, a lack of growth from their big men could leave them searching for options.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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