If you’re anything like me (heaven forbid), it’s been a touch of a struggle to get really, way way way up for this season. Last year there was historic greatness! How do you follow that up? This isn’t 2am bar trash but it also isn’t going to be your wife.
Of course as we’re on season’s eve, all of the feels return, excitement bubbles to standard levels, and we college basketball.
But it remains that this is an odd one. Drawing our attention to the premise of this blog – the Pac-12 – I thought we could contextualize the forthcoming events. If prescribing a single word (or phrase for leeway with possible imagery linked for effect) for each of the Pac-12’s four seasons it’d look something like this:
2012-13: He touched the ball
2014-15: Arizona Continue reading
If it hasn’t been said yet, allow me: Welcome to the Pac, Utes! From the marked and steady progress of Larry’s program to this year’s football performance, Utah has taken full advantage of its place at the big kid’s table. They’re clearly playing the part on the court. But off the court? Just a brand new $36 million practice facility. Watch the video. Larry Krystkowiak’s office is bigger than my apartment (he’s also taller than me so it’s cool). And his team is probably better than yours. If you’re reading other previews, there’s going to be a focus on “replacing Delon.” In college basketball, if you’re trying to “replace” anyone, you’re in trouble. A college basketball season is a flash in the pan, a shooting star, Josh Rosen’s hot tub. It’s a 30-ish game sample set of whatever you can milk out of immature and budding talents. Delon Wright was exceptional. So, so good. You don’t replace him. You adjust, take inventory of the talent you have and that you’ve brought in, and you coach to that roster. Look at Arizona’s “struggles” last year as they seemingly tried to “replace” Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. That was never Stanley Johnson’s game. What Utah has going for themselves is a lot more known commodities as opposed to unknowns. Brandon Taylor is great. Brekkot Chapman is a sophomore! Jakob Poeltl might be the best player in the conference and Dakari Tucker – not Delon Wright – was the one who drove, drew contact and hit two free throws while down a deuce with 18-seconds left against Wichita State. He’s back.
And maybe you don’t like my Arizona analogy (relax, it’s my bread and butter). For the record, it’s probably the most optimistic you’ll find. I looked at Delon’s 2015 comparables (the players, according to KenPom, that most closely resembled Delon’s contributions). This afforded us access to just a small sample set (4 players + Jerian Grant who’s Notre Dame team has yet to play a season without him). The results showed that, the season after a Delon comparable left school, those teams achieved 3 fewer wins, about a 6% drop in offensive efficiency, while approximately maintaining defensive efficiency. Is this the hard and fast rule? Hell no. But I also think this serves as a good reminder of the aforementioned fluidity, brevity and immediacy of college basketball. One player does not a team make (except for Spencer Dinwiddie at Colorado). Heading into a given season we have no barometer but those 30-ish games played by a nearly completely different group. I wonder what the average percentage of returning minutes is across college basketball? For Utah it’s 75% which is very high and – considering the past success of that three-quarters – is good stuff.
Why I love them
We must begin by saying the Jahlil Okafor is really good. I’m not messing around and neither is he. Okafor scored in single figures only once this season and his team won that game by 43 and he was 2-2 from the field. He played 19 minutes. Here’s what it can look like: Continue reading
So they’re not the hottest team in the country and have slumped to the point that my March 2014 prediction of the Utes being a four-seed was narrowly missed. I’ve been further off on other predictions – I see you 2015 Buffs – so I won’t soon lose any sleep over this. What I might lose some sleep over is how tough these Utes really are. There’s a je ne sias quoi that I’m going to try to sais quoi: They don’t have it. Whatever that gene is that allows you to flush goldfish down the toilet or take the last piece of cake at not your birthday party or win a close basketball game, that seems to be missing for the Utes. They’re just 4-11 the last two years in games decided by 6 points or fewer. Sometimes in a tournament you’ve got to be able to do that. Can the Utes? My hope is that the imminent finality of these fantastic two years instills some of that DGAF in Delon Wright. He’s too good to play just one more time for us.
The Pac-12 tournament isn’t so much an exercise in basketball competition (that was great) as it is an event. A destination for hoopniks to congregate in a city that allows them to stay up past their bedtimes and participate in all manner of fandom. I watched eleven basketball games. Some of them were close and others were sharpied at the second media timeout. I met Ken Pomeroy and completely froze in the moment. I wish I’d asked if he could tell when exactly his numbers were predictably significant. After all, the college basketball season is only about 30 games long. That’s brief. Is that sample size significant to predicting a team’s performance? Similarly it’s been just three tournaments in Las Vegas. What do we really know about it? Is the fun we’ve had the shiny newness? The experiential equivalent of Washington being ranked 13th in the nation. It’s a small sample size and very few would be quick to celebrate the tournament’s Los Angeles iteration. Continue reading
Because we’re honest with each other, Spencer and I really weren’t sure what to Pod-out this week. Arizona had wrapped the conference, Stanford was Dawkinsing, UCLA is just letting things play out, and – well – Oregon has impressed. But then 30-minutes of Pac-12 basketball pre-tournament-and-everything-we-love-about-college-basketball was discussed. The madness may have already begun, but now is the calm before the Vegas. Before the Dance.
WANE (and on SoundCloud):
When it comes to knowing everything about the Utah Utes, it’s not wrong to note Delon Wright. And while that’s both short sighted and narrow, it’s not entirely inaccurate. He’s just really damn good. But after two double-negatives in nearly as many sentences, credit where credit is rightfully due: Larry Krystkowiak. In my estimation he’s the man with the plan and its come to near perfect execution. He built his program for the 2015 season (and most certainly beyond) and that’s exactly how things have played out.
So more about this team.
Delon is terrific but what else is going on? A 6’5″ point-combo-guard does not alone constitute the fifth most efficient defense in the country. He alone does not protect the rim at alarmingly elite – if not destructive – levels. He alone does not carry a Top-20 3FG% (he actually detracts from it). There are a lot of layers to this Utah onion. Let’s peel:
We know Delon Wright is really good and that he’s uniquely gifted at getting to the rim. Last year it was at insane levels as 62% of his offense was a layup or dunk attempt which he made 71% of the time. He exploded onto the scene and to the rim and we took notice.
Presumably, 2015 wasn’t going to surprise us. Last year he was a JuCo transfer, the kid brother of Dorrel. He could sneak up on you. Continue reading
With high spirits considering I knew the entire episode was recorded, I was delighted to see things open with Snoop saying, “We Bruins now.” How could this not be a great episode? I guess setting high expectations is a tough proposition for Colorado.
Alas, what I’d come to discover is that what I missed in mis-DVR’ing the final four minutes was just a power-reel through the most recent weekend of games. We less-than-enthusiastically got to re-live UCLAs sweep of the Ski schools and Askia’s 43. Meh. Continue reading