The young and the restless

By By Cody Brunner

By Cody Brunner

There was bound to be some fallout last year in coach Ray Giacoletti’s second season at the helm of the U basketball team. After all, the Utes had lost the best player in the nation in Andrew Bogut and were still recovering from previous coach Rick Majerus’ leaving the program in shambles.

But who would’ve imagined they would go from the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals to an abysmal 14-15 record last season?

Needless to say, Ute fans have plenty to be excited about this year as coach Giac brings in yet another solid recruiting class–some members of which will be immediate contributors.

Add that to an already solid core of veteran talent, and what do you get? I actually don’t know, but I’m certainly willing to guess.

The Utes have all the intangibles necessary to make a run at the Mountain West Conference title, but first they have to mesh and prove that they can play as a team. They have a giant Aussie in the middle who will consistently put up 15 points and 10 rebounds. They have a smooth, calculating shooting guard in Johnnie Bryant. And they also have solid contributors at the three (Ricky Johns) and four (Shaun Green) positions, both of whom could light up the scoreboard at any given time.

Being The Daily Utah Chronicle’s basketball beat writer, a lot of people ask me how we are going to do this year. That’s a pretty damned good question.

The Utes thoroughly dominated Brock University in their first exhibition game Friday night, 92-53. What does that mean? It means that Brock University was pathetic. I mean, my high-school team would have a decent shot at beating Brock, and we were pathetic (I played the point, if that tells you anything). The Utes will open their regular season at home against in-state rival Southern Utah and conclude in Provo against the Cougars.

The Utes face a pair of formidable opponents (Colorado, Washington State) early in the season, and, to be frank, I don’t think they will win either one.

Utah then travels up to the unfriendly confines of the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan to take on Utah State University. Very few teams sneak out of Logan with a victory, and Utah won’t be one of them.

The Runnin’ Utes will bounce back with convincing wins against Rhode Island, Cal Poly and Central Florida before heading to the San Juan shootout and getting knocked out in the second round. Utah will finish off the non-conference schedule at home against Albany. Survey says?win.

All right-so the Utes will head into their conference schedule with a 9-4 record. At this point, they probably won’t be shocking fans with their superb play, but they will do enough to get by.

The conference schedule opens in the city of sin against UNLV and doesn’t get any easier from there with road games against Colorado State and New Mexico. Look for the Utes to go 10-6 in the Mountain West (19-10 overall) and have a three or four seed in the conference tournament.

I can definitely see the Utes making the NCAA tournament this year, but in order to do so, they have to follow these suggestions.

1. Get Johnnie Bryant the ball early and often. The guy is more G-unit than Fifty himself and needs to be the No. 1 threat in the offense. I’m talking, like, 20-25 shots per game. Do it.

2. Hire a barber for all the Aussies. Seriously, we don’t live in California, guys.

3. Find a way to wake Shaun “Sleepy” Green up. He puts up solid numbers but always looks like he needs more sleep. If he were to wake up, who knows what he would be capable of?

4. Daniel Deane needs minutes. The former Mr. Basketball plays with a scrappy intensity and will be a serious baller for the Utes in years to come.

5. Finally, for the betterment of the glorious nation of Kazakhstan, find a way to sneak Borat into the lineup. After all, we have every other nationality on the team.