For awhile now I’ve been stuck on this quote from Larry Krystkowiak at media day. The 6’9″ catcher of bike thieves had this to say about his program:
I think, that playing hard is a talent.
And I don’t think he’s wrong. I really don’t. But my goodness is this the most little brother thing imaginable? I can wrap my mind around the fact that you’ve been overhauling a roster for three consecutive seasons and started with a squad capable of being one of the worst high major, D1 teams of all-time (finished 6-25). I don’t love this quote because I feel it’s a consolation; an admission that everyone is going to be better than you before anyone steps on the floor. We’re going to play harder because it’s our only shot. It’s commonplace that high motors win ball games, and so starting each game under the guise that you can only win if you play hard feels short sighted. Defeatist. But before I get too far in to one quote, allow me…
Why I love them: Jordan Loveridge. I’ve said it in a previous post that one man does not a team make but one man can redefine a program. While those statements contradict one another, Loveridge is a talented ball player; and not just because he plays hard. He’s a big body with the ability to stretch the floor and he can cause fits. Particularly with the emergence of fellow sophomore Brandon Taylor. A season ago, Taylor took his sweet time in finding the floor and perhaps letting his talents flourish. But as the season wore on, he garnered more tick and didn’t let K down – averaging 11/1/2 in the season’s final five games as the Utes closed 4-1 with a win over #19 Oregon (in which Taylor dropped 14 points). What I’m getting at is he peaked as the Utes were peaking and I like these sort of coincidences. I like maturing freshmen heading into their sophomore seasons. I like Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge. I’m beginning to like Utah’s actual talent.
Why I hate them: Once again Larry K is bringing in a fresh new crop of Runnin’ Utes. This year it’s seven noobs which means we have to call the aforementioned Loveridge and Taylor “veterans.” Laughable, no? Such is reality inside the Huntsman Center and it’s reason enough not to love this team. Continuity will go a long way in restoring what this program will become and that begins with Loveridge and Taylor.
Stat you need to know:
Percentage of returning minutes played. That’s the fewest in the Pac-12. The question, however, becomes whether or not that’s good or bad news. The perspective of the former would suggest that one wouldn’t want to return too much from a 15-18 team that finished 10th in the conference. Not returning much is another clean slate. The contrary opinion is such that 15-18 was an improvement. Losing 60% of the minutes that contributed to the Utes’ best season since 2009 is detrimental to the continued, year-over-year progress K has been making. What do you think?
“Larry Krystkowiak would back everyone down and you wouldn’t be able to keep him from scoring in the paint. Not that he couldn’t shoot. But that’s what he would do. Then he definitely would foul you every time you had the ball. So he would be tough.” – Lorenzo Romar on which Pac-12 coach wins in a 1-on-1 tournament
Outlook: It’s an improving one. The Runnin’ Utes aren’t soon to compete for a Pac-12 title or even a first round bye in the Pac-12 tournament (top-4 finish); but they’re going to be better once again and we can start to take them more seriously. Their schedule is starting to look less MWC and more Pac-12. Only St. Katherine College is a glaring blemish of childishness this season. Of note: The StK Firebirds will be taking on my Alma Mater, the UCSD Tritons, on 11/27. Larry K is building a good thing in Salt Lake but he’s taking his sweet time. That’s probably the right thing to do but with that comes with further growing pains and 2013-14 won’t soon be any different. But it will be better and they’re going to win a handful of those games you thought they had no business competing in. Because, you know, playing hard takes talent.