Utah basketball: Runnin’ Utes enter the top 10

By Griffin Adams and Griffin Adams

In the latest Associate Press Top 25 poll the Runnin’ Utes climbed their way back into the top 10 by jumping two spots to No. 9. Utah is coming off of a 76-61 victory over Cal and with Arizona sitting at No. 7, the Feb. 28 matchup between the two continues to sweeten.

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“We play Arizona?” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said jokingly after his team’s win on Sunday. “I know a lot of people want to play them, I’m not so excited about that.”

With the victory over the Golden Bears, the Runnin’ Utes have now secured a winning Pac-12 record – their first since joining the conference. The accomplishment is something worth noting, but according to Krystkowiak, there won’t be much jubilation until all is said and done.

“It’s great, we changed the number to 20 [wins] tonight,” he said. “The guys have done a heckuva job, but were not interested in any kind of celebrations. We need to be playing some good basketball.”

Poeltl getting recognized

Freshman center Jakob Poeltl is coming off of one of the more impressive nights of his young career – 18 points and 8 rebounds against sizeable competition – and people are starting to take notice of the Austrian once again.

It’s been awhile since Poeltl has received the amount of praise and hype he was getting at the beginning of the season, but in a list released by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday, Poeltl was among the 15 finalists for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to the nation’s best center. Also on the list are Player of the Year frontrunners Jahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky.

Poeltl has a rare blend of size and fluidity, but its the numbers he has been putting up that really separates him. As of today, the freshman is two blocks shy of setting a single-season freshman record at Utah for blocks in a season.

To put into perspective how good Poeltl has been in his all-around game, there have only been two other players in Utah history to average nine points, seven and a half rebounds and block 40 shots as a freshman – Andrew Bogut and Keith Van Horn.

Wright takes over

When one mentions Utah basketball, it’s hard not to bring up Delon Wright. The point guard has received heaps upon heaps of praise throughout his two seasons in Salt Lake City, and has helped put the Runnin’ Utes back on the map.

Krystkowiak recalls a time where he was at Pac-12 Media Day prior to Wright suiting up for Utah, and no one knew much about his team or Wright at all.

“Before we started, nobody knew much about our team,” Krystkowiak said. “Everyone was talking about Jordan Loveridge and who was gonna be the guy and I said, ‘theres a guy named Delon Wright who’s kind of a stat-sheet stuffer.’”

Wright has done more than just stuff stat sheets, and many have dubbed him third-in-line when it comes to the Player of the Year awards, after Okafor and Kaminsky. Wright is currently averaging 14.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game, boasting his well-rounded game to the rest of the nation all while remaining unselfish.

“It’s a lot like the rest of the guys on our team, pretty selfless when wanting to put numbers up for themselves,” Krystkowiak said of Wright. “He brings a lot to the table.”

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