Runnin? Utes show promise, might not be enough

By By Tony Pizza

By Tony Pizza

If the first seven games of the Runnin’ Utes season were a bath full of water, the temperature would be lukewarm at best.

On one hand, the Utes have accumulated several wins8212;namely against University of Mississippi, Missouri State and Oregon8212;that filled the basin with water hot enough to scald an elephant.

On the other hand, Utah has had two losses8212;one on opening day to Division-II Southwest Baptist, the other a four-point loss to 2-5 Idaho State8212;that would make Frosty the Snowman shiver.

There are good and bad things about Utah’s lukewarmness this year. Idaho State was Utah’s first loss away from the Huntsman Center in four tries. That’s a sign of mental toughness. Although all 5-2 records look alike from a number’s perspective, this year’s 5-2 start is much more encouraging than the past year’s8212;all things considered.

Last year, Utah’s record was inflated by teams that are barely pinpoints on the college basketball map such as USC Upstate, Highpoint and UC Irvine, along with the typically easy-to-get-excited-for in-state matchups against Weber State and Utah State.

This year, there is no inflation to Utah’s record. In fact, it has been hampered by losses to teams that could have, and probably should have, been stepping stones to a 7-0 start from a team that is just one season removed from a drastic coaching change.

The most frustrating thing when looking at Utah’s season so far is that its potential has been proven. You don’t beat Ole Miss on the road and you don’t beat Oregon at home unless you’re a team that can win big basketball games. But Utah is also a team that is still either overlooking its opponents, or underestimating the amount it has to put into a basketball game.

Judging from Utah’s wins this season, it seems that Utah is very much buying what head coach Jim Boylen has been selling thus far, which has been a steady diet of defense and mental toughness.

The Runnin’ Utes have already shown remarkable progress, but they aren’t there yet. Beating teams you can beat is one thing. Giving teams you probably shouldn’t beat a run for their money is another thing. Combine that with consistently beating teams one should beat is what means Utah is back. Right now, Utah is on its way.

Like Boylen has said in nearly every press conference since he’s been at Utah, he’s trying to build a program. The building is taking form. The building is starting to look nice. It seemed like the loss to open the season against Southwest Baptist was a learning opportunity.

Utah got another one Saturday when it was defeated by a now 2-5 basketball team. Boylen called the game just as important as Utah’s upcoming game against another Pac-10 foe, Cal. He might have pointed out that game for a reason, because it appears that Utah can motivate itself well enough for the big games, but still needs work on getting itself up for the ones that only become noteworthy if it loses.

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