#102 Utah Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Utah Utes

2017-2018 Overall Rank: #102
Conference Rank: #9 Pac-12

Utah won 20 games in 2016-17 for the fourth straight season, but the Utes missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013-14. It will be a tall task for Utah to get back to the Big Dance this season, as four of their top six scorers from last season have departed. Among those losses is first team all-Pac-12 member Kyle Kuzma. Coach Larry Krystkowiak will have a demanding challenge ahead of him this season as he attempts to get a group of new acquisitions and former role players to compete in the Pac-12. Just getting back to the NIT would be considered a success for this new look Utah squad.
2016-17 Record: 20-12, 11-7
2016-17 Postseason:
Larry Krystkowiak
Coach Record:
115-85 at Utah, 154-105 overall
Who’s Out:
Utah loses three of their four most important players from last season. Most notable is star forward Kyle Kuzma, who is gone after being selected in the first round of the NBA Draft. Kuzma was selected to the first team all-Pac-12 and elected to leave school a year early as a junior, causing Utah to lose their leader in scoring (16.4) and rebounding (9.3). Also departed is last year’s starting point guard Lorenzo Bonam. Bonam led Utah in assists and was the team’s third leading scorer. Bonam’s graduation will leave a leadership void at the point guard position that the Utes must find a way to replace. Also this offseason, Devon Daniels and JoJo Zamora both decided to transfer out of the Utah program which left an unexpected hole in the line-up. Daniels served a three game suspension late in the season and his relationship with Coach Krystkowiak never seemed to improve. Daniels was just a freshman with a promising future, averaging 9.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists in his lone season at Utah. Zamora was a starter for most of conference play and would have been an important senior leader on this year’s team. Gabe Bealer also graduated from the program after averaging 3.6 points per game last season.  
Who’s In:
To replace all the pieces lost in the offseason, Coach Krystkowiak had to bring in several fresh faces. Graduate transfer Justin Bibbins out of Long Beach State should help replace Bonam as a leader at the point guard position. Bibbins stands just 5-8, but he’s quick and can shoot from long range. He averaged 13.1 points and 4.4 assists last season on 37.5% shooting from three. Bibbins was a two-time second team all-Big West selection. Utah will also bring in three freshmen this season. Christian PoPoola, a three-star prospect, signed with the Utes after originally committing to rival BYU. The 6-4 guard won back-to-back state championships in high school and should contribute immediately this season. Utah also adds athletic 6-7 forward Donnie Tillman, a three-star prospect from in-state. Tillman should also contribute right away and could become a starter with Utah’s thin small forward situation. Chris Seeley will be eligible to play this season after redshirting last year. The 6-8 forward was a late signee in August 2016 for Utah and should be able to crack the rotation this season.
Who to Watch:
The most productive returning player is forward David Collette, who was a junior college transfer for Utah last season. Collette will be a senior this season and should be relied on as a leader on and off the court. He was the team’s second leading scorer with 13.6 points per game last season. Sedrick Barefield, who was fifth on the team in scoring last season, is the next highest scorer to return for Utah. Barefield only started three games as a sophomore last year and should replace Zamora in the line-up this season. Barefield will need to continue to be an effective outside shooter in a bigger role after he made 39% of his threes as a reserve last season. Senior Tyler Rawson will likely take Kuzma’s spot in the starting line-up this season. Rawson scored six points per game last season on just 44.5% shooting from the field. He will have to become more efficient shooting the ball as his minutes go up. One player who could take a big step this year is seven-footer Jayce Johnson. Johnson was a four-star prospect out of high school, but redshirted his first year at Utah and then only played 12.3 minutes per game last season. Kuzma’s departure could give Johnson more playing time at the center position next to Collette.
Final Projection:
Utah will need some new players to step up for them to have a chance to compete in the Pac-12 this season. Four of the top six scorers from last season are gone, causing Coach Krystkowiak to rely on new additions and role players to contribute this season. Role players like Parker Van Dyke, Gabe Bealer, Jakub Jokl and Jake Connor are all back this season, but may not see their roles expand much with all the incoming players. The three freshmen will be expected to contribute right away, along with experienced graduate transfer Justin Bibbins. Returning players like David Collette and Sedrick Barefield will be heavily relied on to provide stability and leadership to the line-up. If everyone is able to mesh together, Utah could make some noise in the Pac-12. However, if the voids are too big for the newcomers to fill, it could be the first season going under .500 in conference play for Coach Krystkowiak since 2012-13.
Projected Postseason Tournament: CBI / CIT / V16
Projected Starting Five:
Justin Bibbins, Senior, Guard, 13.1 points per game

Sedrick Barefield, Junior, Guard, 9.0 points per game
Donnie Tillman, Freshman, Forward DNP last season
David Collette, Senior, Forward, 13.6 points per game
Tyler Rawson, Senior, Center, 6.0 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 78.5 (57th in nation, 4th in conference)

Scoring Defense: 68.1 (70, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 50.4 (3, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.7 (65, 3)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.7 (229, 8)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.3 (160, 8)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.2 (253, 9)
Rebound Margin: 6.8 (14, 1)
Assists Per Game: 14.9 (84, 4)
Turnovers Per Game: 13.5 (227, 10)