Five storylines to follow as Utah basketball opens practice

Utah Utes forward Riley Battin (21) and Utah Utes guard Jaxon Brenchley (5) laugh after a foul during a game against the Oregon State Beavers in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Utah won 81-69.

Utah Utes forward Riley Battin (21) and Utah Utes guard Jaxon Brenchley (5) laugh after a foul during a game against the Oregon State Beavers in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020. Utah won 81-69. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Runnin’ Utes have nearly everybody back from last year’s team, which was one of the youngest in the country and are hoping to challenge in the Pac-12 in 2020-21

When we last saw the Utah basketball team, it was losing a heartbreaker to Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, on a 3-point shot by a reserve guard with 1.8 seconds left in the game.

It was a tough way to end the Utes’ season, which, as it turned out, would have ended anyway, even with a win. That’s because it was the same March day Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus and all of college basketball was shut down the following day.

“It’s a little bit of a new sensation to have so many familiar faces back. They’re a great group and they’re all happy and doing well and the coaching staff is ecstatic to be able to coach them and have them back.” — Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak

The Utes finished with a winning record of 16-15, made possible by an upset overtime win over Colorado the previous weekend as they finished in a tie for eighth in the Pac-12 standings.

It wasn’t a great record, but a decent finish for a team that started the season as the second-youngest team among the 353 Division I basketball schools.

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Now the Utes are hoping for bigger things in 2020-21 with a veteran group that has nearly everyone back from last year along with some talented newcomers.

“It’s a little bit of a new sensation to have so many familiar faces back,” said coach Larry Krystkowiak, who had 11 freshmen and a JC transfer on last year’s roster and a young roster the year before. “They’re a great group and they’re all happy and doing well and the coaching staff is ecstatic to be able to coach them and have them back.”

The Utes lost a couple of players to transfers in the offseason, the most significant being Both Gach, a 6-6 guard who was a starter last year and part-time starter the year before. Gach decided to return home and play for Minnesota.

Otherwise, the Utes return their top eight scorers, including starters Timmy Allen, Rylan Jones, Branden Carlson and Riley Battin. Also back are Alfonso Plummer, the only senior on the team, Jaxon Brenchley, Mikael Jantunen and Lahat Thioune.

The Utes officially open practice Wednesday with the season expected to start Nov. 25, but the Pac-12 schedule has yet to be released.

Here’s a look at five storylines for the 2020-21 season:

How will last year’s fab freshmen step up in sophomore campaigns?
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
…read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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