Downbound: Utah takes Pac-12 elevator to basement
Utes, who host Washington and Washington State this week, are 3-10 and getting drubbed despite storied tradition.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
It's a learning experience this year for the Utah basketball program, and that includes the fundamentals. You know, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator at the road hotel.
The Utes this week host Washington State and Washington as they continue their maiden voyage in Pac-12 Conference basketball. You may have noticed they're not of the ilk of some previous Utah editions like the ones that won 20 or more games 13 times in 15 years (1991 to 2005), and definitely not like the '98 club that came within four minutes of beating Kentucky for the national championship.
This is a place with some tradition, going as far back as 1944, when Arnie Ferrin — who would become chairman of the NCAA basketball committee — led the Utes to the NCAA title.
This season, Utah is 3-10 and is No. 300 in NCAA's official RPI computer rankings. It has beaten Portland, Idaho State and San Diego Christian. Its average of 56.8 points per game is 323rd nationally (of 338) and its field-goal percentage defense (.475) is 316th. Portland is No. 194 in the RPI, Idaho State is 319 and San Diego Christian is somewhere behind the San Diego Chicken.
It got very bad in Utah's first Pac-12 game the other day at Colorado, where the Utes lost 73-33 to a club most people figure for the second division of the league. It was 27-11 at halftime.
"The game is no fun when you're not able to score the ball," said Larry Krystkowiak, the first-year Utes coach. "We're putting so much pressure on our defense."
At Colorado, Krystkowiak aired his team out for 10 minutes in a heated postgame address in which he questioned the Utes' off-court readiness. Tuesday on the Pac-12 conference call, he downplayed it, but he ran through a litany of instances in which players were late for team functions.
"Everything was going fantastically up until our Christmas break," he said.
Then a player was late to a dinner on the eve of the Colorado game. Another overslept on game day and wasn't on the team bus. And, as Krystkowiak explains it, four players told him there was "some kind of mechanical issue" with an elevator that caused them to be late.
"I'd like to believe it was kind of a little string of unexplainable circumstances," said Krystkowiak, the Montana grad and nine-year NBA veteran. "But like I explained to our players, the game has to be so important, you've got to be in the lobby 20 minutes early."
As it happens, the Utes should get help next year from two Seattle products, Glen Dean, a 5-10 Roosevelt High School grad and transfer from Eastern Washington, and 6-4 Aaron Dotson of Rainier Beach, who left Trent Johnson's Louisiana State program after starting for most of two years.
Dean is still recovering from what Krystkowiak called a "really scary" episode culminating in mid-December brain surgery to repair a ruptured blood vessel. Dean had experienced bouts of dizziness and had another while on the bench in the middle of Utah's game with BYU on Dec. 10.
"He's going to be out quite some time," said Krystkowiak, referring to workouts. "He can't handle any kind of contact."
The guess here is, Krystkowiak can coach. In 2006, I saw his 12th-seeded Montana team carve up a good Nevada club to the tune of 87-79 in the NCAA tournament.
That, ironically, came in Salt Lake City, where the locals look to be in for a long, cold winter with Krystkowiak's latest team.
And What's More ...
• A subtle changing of the guard may be taking place at Washington State, where seniors Faisal Aden and Abe Lodwick played only nine minutes apiece against Oregon State. Reserve big man D.J. Shelton is improving, while in the backcourt, Mike Ladd has another year and impressive freshman DaVonte Lacy looks to be a fixture.
• Kevin Parrom gave Arizona 16 good minutes against Arizona State, but is still recovering from a September shooting and two unrelated deaths in the family. "We're eager to give him a little more each game," says coach Sean Miller. "But I'm a little (hesitant) to say I could see him playing 30 minutes or starting this season."
• Oregon State, 0-2 after a hopeful start, needs to make something happen against the Bay Area schools.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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