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The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Improved offense makes repeat likely

By Jake Hibbard

The 2009-2010 Runnin’ Utes are going to win the Mountain West Crown this year.

But before you start searching me for illicit narcotics, let me explain. I realize the Utes have been pretty pathetic at times this season, losing to Idaho and Seattle, but seriously, these guys really have a shot.

First of all, this team is young. Only two starters from last year are still with the team, and five key guys this year weren’t on last season’s roster8212;whether they were still in high school, on a mission or stuck in Idaho like poor Jay Watkins. So when looking at those ugly, early-season losses, I have to take into account that this was a team full of members who didn’t really know each other.

Well, I think they know each other now. Watching the Utes in their final nonconference game of the year against LSU, I saw a different team than the one that was completely inept against the Vandals. Despite LSU’s superior athleticism, Utah mounted a comeback win, preventing LSU from scoring a field goal for nine minutes late in the second half.

Taking on TCU a week later, the Utes even managed to blow out a team they were supposed to beat, instead of laying an egg like they would have earlier in the year. This team is the best it has been all year, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

Watkins is showing off offensive post moves that Luke Nevill didn’t know existed. He’s improving with every game, as is freshman guard Shawn Glover, who is becoming one of the more reliable shooters on the team.

As far as the rest of the conference goes, the gap between the top team and Utah is not as big as one might think.

There was a lot of hoopla for New Mexico8212;until it dropped its first two conference games to San Diego State and UNLV.

Even UNLV has shown some chinks in the armor as of late. Its loss to BYU when Jimmer Fredette was suffering from mononucleosis meant one of two things to me. First, Fredette is the newest addition to the Ewing Theory8212;the idea that a team plays better without its best player. Second, the MWC is more up-for-grabs than people think.

So why not the Utes? They have proven they can beat good teams such as Illinois and even hung with Oklahoma until the very end. All they need to win the conference is to forget that the first half of the season ever happened, focus on playing the way they are now and maybe get a lucky break or two.

Speaking of luck8212;though it might not be classy to mention8212;Utah is playing BYU later this month, when Fredette still might not be up to par, which is definitely an advantage for the Utes.

If all else fails, just pull a Boise State and start running trick plays. You can’t tell me that having David Foster on all fours barking like a dog wouldn’t get the attention of opponents, even if it’s an age-old trick.

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