Runnin’ Utes start season ranked for first time since 2000-01


— Erin Burns

For the first time since the 2000-01 season, the No. 25 Runnin’ Utes will start their season in the AP Top 25. In a 98-38 shellacking of Pacific last week, Utah certainly played like a ranked team, but head coach Larry Krystkowiak isn’t looking too much into it.
“I would like to believe that we haven’t accomplished anything,” Krystkowiak said. “We’ve got a group of guys that aren’t relaxing, and certainly it never once felt like there’s complacency when we come into practice.”
While it’s the coach’s job to keep these players grounded, it may not be necessary with players like returning wingman Jordan Loveridge leading the way.
“No one really talks about [Utah being ranked] too much. The only people that mention it is media or fans, really,” Loveridge said. “We don’t pay too much attention to it.”
Wrighting his shot
Heading into the season, Utah point guard Delon Wright has received piles of praise from fans and media alike. After a busy summer spent at the LeBron James Skills Academy, Wright has made appearances on multiple preseason lists, including ESPN’s top 20 players in the country.
The most recent accolade for Wright was being named to the Bob Cousy Award watchlist. This award goes to the best point guard in the nation, but Wright knows, just like his team, he has not accomplished anything just yet.
“No, I’m level-headed,” Wright said about all the preseason hype. “Just as fast as they say I’m good, I could have a bad season or fall off, so I’m just focusing day-by-day.”
Something a lot of NBA scouts have knocked Wright on is his lack of a consistent jump shot. However, after an offseason of focusing on it, Wright is looking to prove his doubters wrong.
“That’s my weak spot, so I felt like I have to prove that I can knock the shot down,” he said. “I feel like it will help, not only myself, but the team put up some points.”
Rebounding prowess
In the 2013-2014 season, the Runnin’ Utes finished third in the Pac-12 in rebounding margin, finishing with nearly four more rebounds than their opponents. With returning big man Dallin Bachynski, who measures in at seven feet and 265 pounds, Utah will be looking to keep up those numbers heading into this campaign.
“Everyone talks about how rebounding is very important, and honestly, if you can’t rebound, you can’t win a game,” Bachynski said. “I think with the big guys we’ve got at the 5 position with me, [Jakob Poeltl] and [Jeremy Olsen], we’re going to find one guy to rebound.”
Poeltl, who got the start last week in the exhibition game against Pacific, collected 11 rebounds against the Boxers, proving he can be a force on the boards. While the numbers may be skewed due to Poeltl being at least three inches taller than anyone on Pacific’s team, the players at the center position have the trust in one another to get the job done.
“Whether it’s just not bouncing my way one day and then Jakob goes in and gets every board, you know what? If that’s what we need to win, then done,” Bachynski said.
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