#65 Utah Men's Basketball 2016-2017 Preview

Utah Utes
2016-2017 Overall Rank: #65
Conference Rank: #8 Pac-12
The expectations were high for Utah last year. And they pretty much lived up to them going 13-5 and finishing second to Oregon in the Pac-12. The Utes went into the NCAA Tournament with some momentum and it showed against Fresno State in the first round. But then Utah went up against Gonzaga and were absolutely crushed. Coach Larry Krystkowiak has a lot of rebuilding to do though. Only two players are back who averaged over ten minutes per game last year and this team will be very lucky to even come close to last season’s success.
2015-16 Record: 27-9, 13-5
2015-16 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Larry Krystkowiak
Coach Record: 95-73 at Utah, 137-93 overall
Who’s Out:
The biggest area where Utah fans will notice a big absence is in the frontcourt. Jakob Poeltl and Jordan Loveridge leave a couple massive holes to fill. Poeltl led the team with 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He was a superb interior scorer and did more for this team than even those big numbers would indicate. Loveridge was second on the team with 11.6 points per game. The 6-6 forward could score in a variety of ways and led the team with 90 three-pointers made on the season. Brekkott Chapman, a 6-8 forward, transferred to Weber State after averaging 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds as a sophomore. With Austin Montgomery and Chris Reyes also leaving, Utah has just one forward on the roster who has played at all for the Utes. Brandon Taylor is the big loss on the perimeter. He turned into a solid point guard during his senior season and ended the year leading the team with 3.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game on top of his 9.7 points. Dakarai Tucker had a good senior year as well. He turned into a much more consistent outside shooter and averaged 5.4 points per game. Kenneth Ogbe, Isaiah Wright and Austin Eastman are also gone from the backcourt.
Who’s In:
In total, Utah has a dozen guys who could play this year that did not play last season. That is a ton of turnover. Parker Van Dyke at least has played for Utah in the past. He played pretty well for the Utes two years ago before going on his mission. Fellow guard Beau Rydalch is also back from his mission and will suit up for the Utes for the first time. However, most of the other newcomers on the perimeter are expected to have a much bigger impact than Rydalch. JoJo Zamora and Tim Coleman are junior college transfers who will bring valuable experience to the backcourt. Zamora is a scorer, but he can handle the ball as well. Coleman’s sophomore season at Lee College in Texas was shorted by injury, but he is a tough player who will always play tough defense. Sedrick Barefield will be eligible after the first semester. The SMU transfer played just five games for the Mustangs as a freshman before opting to transfer. Incoming freshmen Devon Daniels and Marc Reininger will look to make an impact too. Daniels is a big 6-5 wing who has a very promising future. With his size and ability to attack the basket and help out on the glass, his future could start now. The frontcourt was in desperate need of some bodies too and there are five newcomers who will need to fill quite a few minutes. David Collette will be eligible after the first semester and will likely step right into a starting role. The 6-8 forward spent one season at Utah State where he averaged 12.8 points and 5.0 rebounds as a freshman. His Division I experience will be huge for this team. Tyler Rawson has some experience too. Following a run to the NJCAA championship, Rawson brings a lot of momentum and confidence to Salt Lake City. Even at 6-10 and 225 pounds, Rawson can attack the basket and that is not a very comfortable position for opposing defenders. Redshirt freshman Jayce Johnson was one of the best center recruits last year and now he should definitely be ready to make a big impact. He has a lot of skills that most seven-footers do not have and that is the type of player that Utah has done very well with in the past.
Who to Watch:
Utah returns just four players from last year’s team and that includes Jake Connor, who saw a grand total of 28 minutes of playing time in 2015-2016. Gabe Bealer did not see much action either, but the 6-6 wing could see more than 6.6 minutes per game this time around. The two key returnees are Lorenzo Bonam and Kyle Kuzma. Bonam is a 6-4 senior who averaged 10.2 points and 3.0 assists during his junior campaign. He is not the most prolific shooter around, but Bonam will attack the basket and play very good defense. He is not a bad outside shooter if this team needs him to take more shots, which is certainly very possible. Kuzma is the lone returning frontcourt player and the likely new leader of the team. The 6-9 junior averaged 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds and he needs to make the frontcourt his while all of the new faces get acclimated to their roles.
Final Projection:
Coach Krystkowiak has a lot of new faces to work with and it remains to be seen if this group can come together and compete in the Pac-12. There is quite a bit of talent on hand, but nearly all of it is unproven at this level. Going from the junior college ranks to the Pac-12 is quite an adjustment and many good junior college transfers have failed to make it in the past. Sooner or later the regular rotation will work itself out, but that could take a while. When it does though, the cream that rises to the top will have the talent to beat some good teams. They just may not do it consistently enough to reach another NCAA Tournament.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Tim Coleman, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
JoJo Zamora, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Lorenzo Bonam, Senior, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Kyle Kuzma, Junior, Forward, 10.8 points per game
Jayce Johnson, Freshman, Center, DNP last season
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 77.2 (78th in nation, 6th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 69.5 (111, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.9 (10, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 41.9 (89, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.6 (116, 3)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 36.6 (77, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.1 (94, 3)
Rebound Margin: 4.6 (49, 4)
Assists Per Game: 15.5 (47, 2)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.5 (157, 8)

Madness 2016 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#63 Jayce Johnson