Utah Hoops: 40 point loss + open try-outs = first Pac-12 win?

AP Photo/Colin E Braley

Utah Hoops: 40 point loss + open try-outs = first Pac-12 win?


In the span of one week, the Utah basketball team loses a game by more points than they score, hears their coach announce he’ll open try-outs to the student body and then turn around and actually win their first Pac-12 game. Go figure.

Rock bottom appeared to be last Saturday when Utah was embarrassed by Colorado, 73-33. After the game, head coach Larry Krystkowiak went off on the team. Apparently he’d had some discipline problems with guys not showing up on time and instituted a zero tolerance policy regarding tardiness.

Coming off the 40 point loss, we then heard that as soon as school resumes on Monday, 1/9, Utah basketball will hold an open try-out. Ok, so Krystkowiak’s not actually going to throw a bunch of 5’9” accounting majors on the roster but the team is thin enough they need some additional bodies for practice. The announcement obviously just rubs salt in what is already a pretty deep wound. Will they ever suit up in a game? Not likely but let’s be honest – someone goes down to injury or you have a few more defections like Jim Boylen did and you’ll be looking to your practice squad to fill a roster spot. Utah basketball may hold tryouts to fill empty spaces in practice

In spite of the 40-point blowout and perceived desperation of the open try-out, the Utes somehow managed to regroup and go out and win their first Pac-12 basketball game last night. The Utes defeated Washington State 62-60 in overtime at home in a “Blackout” game. You hope it’s a sign they’re getting things turned around. Maybe Krystkowiak is starting to get through to the team. Utes soak up first Pac-12 victory

Aside from the win last night, it’s been a dreadful season. It would be really easy to pile on Krystkowiak as there really hasn’t been anything to cheer about till now. Keep in mind though that he inherited a very thin roster and then lost his 7 footer to injury right as the season was getting under way. And as mentioned already, Krystkowiak’s had to adjust some attitudes with certain players. Perhaps the biggest obstacle he inherited is fans comparing the Utes’ lack of basketball success to the overwhelming success that has been Utah football for the past 8 years.

In addition, some folks thought the Utes should have made more of a splash with the basketball hire. Krystkowiak was not exactly a house-hold name. Many wondered if Utah could have brought in a bigger name to up the recruiting ante. Especially after the two previous coaches were also relative unknowns compared to the legend of Rick Majerus. To Krystkowiak’s credit, he did make a splash when he first took the job by getting a commitment from the best prep player in the state of Utah. 6’7” Jordan Loveridge of West Jordan High School is set to play for the Utes next year.

As for the remainder of this season, Ute fans would sure like to see more of last night’s outcome. Even with a few more W’s, this is going to be a long season. Ute fans will have to be patient. Anyone questioning Krystkowiak or his win/loss record this year is just plain ridiculous. The Utes will hopefully turn the corner in 2012-13. And then in Krystkowiak’s third year, the expectation would be to start competing for the Pac-12 crown. That seems the logical progression.

If Utah basketball isn’t getting it done by the 2013-14 season, you can start to question things then. However, the guy that’ll really be under fire will be long-time Athletic Director Chris Hill, not Krystkowiak. Hill will be the one responsible for 3 coaching misfires and a decade of under-performance since Majerus’s departure in 2004. Right now Hill is king of the world for the Pac-12 move and his oversight and retention of Kyle Whittingham and his coaching brilliance. However, fans and alumni will have become spoiled and expect the same success on the hardwood. If a once proud basketball program is still in the tank in three years, there will be change.

If last night’s win is any indication though, Utah might be righting the ship and these new practice players will be heading back to the library to make way for future big time recruits.

Matt Nielson has been writing about the college sports landscape in Utah and the Intermountain West since 2010. When he’s not pretending to be a professional blogger, he works full time as a residential real estate agent and house flipper. Matt graduated from Brigham Young University in 2000. He and his family reside in Salt Lake City, UT.


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