#50 Utah Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Utah Utes

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #50
Conference Rank: #6 Pac-12

Utah Team Page#50 Utah Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Utah Basketball Tickets

After finishing second in the Pac-12 conference, head coach Larry Kryskowiak led Utah to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2009 and its first tourney win since 2005. The Utes traversed their way through two foes before falling to Duke in the Sweet Sixteen 63-57. It was an all-around successful year, but Utah will have to exceed expectations this season to come close to repeating such success. The Pac-12 conference alone will be a hard ride in 2015-16.

2014-15 Record: 26-9, 13-5
2014-15 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Larry Krystkowiak
Coach Record: 68-63 at Utah, 110-83 overall

Who’s Out:
The main reason Utah may be in store for a heavy decline is because of the production it has lost off last year’s club. The main culprit who departed was senior guard Delon Wright. Wright was flat-out one of the best players in the country. He led the Utes in points, assists, minutes and steals, while finishing second in rebounds, averaging a block per game and shooting over 50 percent from the floor. And somehow he was even better the season before. His dominance of the basketball court at 6’5” made him a nightmare cover for players at all defensive positions. Wright left for the NBA and was drafted in the first round by the Toronto Raptors. The other players Utah lost during the offseason, Dallin Bachynski and Jeremy Olsen, were more bit-part players; their absences won’t have nearly the impact of filling the hole left by Wright. Although, both Bachynski and Olsen brought a ton of size to the Utah frontline; a size advantage across lineups that they may be lacking this year.

Who’s In:
In to replace the lost production are a number of freshmen and junior college transfers. Junior forward Gabe Bealer and junior guard Lorenzo Bonam are the transfers to keep an eye on. Bealer comes from City College of San Francisco, the same program that produced Wright a few years back. And he brings a scoring punch with him to Utah. Bonam was third-team All-American for his juco and, because of his all-around game, has also been thrown into comparisons with Wright in terms of style. Bonam possesses Division I talent and simply took the long road to getting his grades up to the same level. The other names entering the fray are freshmen, including top 2015 signee Makol Mawien. Mawien is a thin, 6’9” forward who is raw offensively but can protect the rim and defend the post. He may be just the sort of piece needed to replace the departed big men inside.

Who to Watch:
Despite the departure of Wright, Utah’s highest upside player actually still remains on the roster. That would be sophomore center Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is a seven-footer from Austria who burst onto the scene as a freshman. Although he only played 23 minutes per game, his skills were evident and he flew up NBA draft boards. Poeltl averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in those limited minutes, while shooting 68.1 percent from the floor! He suffers the now-common shortcoming of many centers in that he is horrid from the foul line, but everything else is on point. Thankfully for the Utes, he decided to return to school for another go at it. And he will not be alone in 2015-16; also back are Utah’s second and third-leading scorers from last season, Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge. Both averaged double figures and were the team’s top two shooters from three. Dakarai Tucker will also be back, rounding out a trio of seniors on campus to support Poeltl and company in their attempt to get back to the tournament.

Final Projection:
Utah has a number of underclassmen who didn’t get much play last season. It will need big jumps in performance out of the likes of Kyle Kuzma, Brekkott Chapman and Isaiah Wright. The former two were four-star recruits out of high school prior to last season. Wright was a less regarded prospect, but all three will need to improve upon their 2014-15 numbers for Utah to make waves this year. The Utes could be deep with contributors but lack star power outside of Poeltl, and he is not a 33-minute a night guy no matter his skill set. This dearth of excellence combined with the improvements of Pac-12 peers likely has Utah on the outside looking in of the NCAA Tournament, relegated to an NIT postseason.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Brandon Taylor, Senior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
Dakarai Tucker, Senior Guard, 7.2 points per game
Jordan Loveridge, Senior, Forward, 10.0 points per game
Brekkott Chapman, Sophomore, Forward, 5.7 points per game
Jakob Poeltl, Sophomore, Forward, 9.1 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 71.3 (74th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 57.1 (8, 1)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.2 (15, 2)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.4 (8, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.5 (59, 1)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 40.4 (7, 1)
Free-Throw Percentage: 48.2 (15, 2)
Rebound Margin: 4.7 (41, 3)
Assists Per Game: 14.0 (75, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 11.6 (82, 4)

Madness 2016 NBA Draft Rankings:
#9 Jakob Poeltl


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