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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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Injuries, inconsistency will hold team back

By Paige Fieldsted

Anyone who has read any of my previous men’s basketball columns should know that I am a fan of head coach Jim Boylen and the Runnin’ Utes. However, when talking about if the team has a legitimate shot at winning the regular season Mountain West Conference Championship, I have to tell the fan in me that is screaming, “Yes, yes, yes,” to be quiet and face the facts.

Yes, the Utes won their conference opener in a big way with a 20-point win over TCU. Yes, high-ranked New Mexico lost its first two conference games and yes, preseason MWC player of the year BYU’s Jimmer Fredette has been diagnosed with mononucleosis. All of these things significantly increase Utah’s chances for success, but they’re not enough to overcome the injuries and inconsistent play that have plagued the Utes all season.

If I learned anything while covering men’s basketball last year, it was that in order to win the regular-season conference championship, you need three things: a healthy team, consistent play and the ability to win road games.

Having a fully healthy roster at his disposal is something Boylen has only had a few times this season. First it was Jay Watkins, now it’s Kim Tillie. When the Utes are at full strength, I think they could match up against almost any team in the country and definitely in the conference. But in reality, the team isn’t healthy. Tillie is out for at least three weeks, and by that point, half of the conference season will be over. We’ve seen that the Utes can win without Tillie, but who knows who else could be injured.

Even more important than having a healthy team is being able to put a consistent team on the floor night after night8212;and the Runnin’ Utes are anything but consistent. They’ve got huge wins over Illinois, Michigan, LSU and TCU but have suffered losses to Weber State, Idaho and Seattle8212;teams Utah could, and should, have beaten but didn’t because it lacks consistency.

Last, but definitely not least, teams must be able to win on the road. Thus far this season, Utah has played on the road only five times, which isn’t enough to make a clear evaluation, but it has lost three of those five. Last season, with a team that played consistently and was fully healthy most of the season, the Utes still lost four conference road games.

This year’s team is built for tournament play8212;the players respond well in big situations and step up when they need to. But in the day-to-day, in-and-out grind of the season, there are bound to be slip-ups.

Assuming Fredette gets healthy before the season is over8212;as much as it pains me to say this8212;BYU will be a force to be reckoned with. UNLV, San Diego State and New Mexico all have four losses or fewer this season.

I’d love to see the Utes prove me8212;and everyone else out there who says they can’t win a second straight title8212;wrong, but I think the odds are stacked against them.
Better luck next time, boys.

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