Tuesday, December 6, 2011
Utah's season keeps getting worse
By Eamonn Brennan
It's a year of firsts for Utah. It's the first post-realignment season as a member of the Pac-12. It's head coach Larry Krystkowiak's first year at the program. With all these firsts, you'd think they'd be some sort of program momentum at work here, some slight tinge of optimism emanating from the nascent hoops power in Salt Lake City.
There is not.
Through seven games this season, Larry Krystkowiak's Utes have only won one game.
Instead, there are losses, and lots of them. The Utes are 1-6 at this point in the season, and the only single-digit margin in the bunch was Utah's 70-64 home loss to Montana State. The rest were blowouts. (I thought about writing each result in this paragraph and really detailing the carnage, but that just seems mean. I'll let you click the link to view the results in full. Consider this your official forewarning.) After seven games, the Utes are ranked No. 271 in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings, behind the likes of (for example) Marist, Canisius, and a whole host of schools that have little business being better at Division I basketball than is Utah. If it weren't for lowly Boston College -- ranked No. 272! -- Utah would be far and away the worst power-conference team in the country on a per-possession basis.
This week, somehow, things got even worse. On Monday, Krystkowiak suspended leading scorer Josh "Jiggy" Watkins after Watkins arrived late for the team's 7:45 a.m. practice. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Watkins' mother Lisa said this was merely the latest in a string of issues for her son, which include falling asleep in class. Krystkowiak said he wasn't trying to "scapegoat anybody" but was "put in a predicament that I really didn't have any other choice."
That's entirely fair. Your leading scorer and most consistent producer should also be one of your team's leaders, and he can't do that when he's sleeping. But more important for Krystkowiak than short-term wins and losses -- and Utah may well lose to Cal-State Fullerton Wednesday night without Watkins in the fold -- is establishing some collective programmatic mentality that goes above and beyond immediate results. Utah isn't going to be good this season. We know that much already. So forget results in the near-term; Krystkowiak's efforts are best spent on building a foundation for the long haul.
Either way, one imagines this is not the glorious Pac-12 arrival that, in a perfect world, would have sounded the Utes' presence in their new power conference. Few Utah fans expected that much, of course, but whatever their expectations, Utah has underperformed them considerably. And it's only December. It's going be a long season in Salt Lake.