The Utes officially open their 2006-2007 season tonight when instate rival Southern Utah pays a visit to the Huntsman Center. Utah, coming off a 14-15 season last year, went 2-0 in their exhibition season and will be looking for a strong start to what head coach Ray Giacoletti hopes is a reversal from last year's struggles.
The Utes will return 4 starters from last year's inconsistent squad and also bring back 3 of their 4 top scorers. Luke Nevill, a sophomore from Perth, Australia, will anchor Utah's very young team. Nevill averaged 12 points and 7 rebounds per game in 23 minutes, while shooting 53% from the field last season.
Utah will show off its youth tonight, with starter Ricky Johns being the only senior on the team. Highly touted recruits Kim Tillie (France), Stephen Weigh (Australia), Daniel Deane (Judge High School) and Misha Radojevic (Serbia) will more than likely see action tonight, providing a strong spark off the bench. Tillie, who was impressive in Utah's first exhibition game, is a threat from outside, while Daniel Deane seems to have the ability to do just about everything on the court. Misha Radojevic will also play this season after sitting out last season with an injury.
Southern Utah University is coming off a 10-20 season and are coached by Bill Evans, who's in his 15th season with the Thunderbirds. Utah defeated SUU 69-53 last year and has only lost once to them, back in 2000. SUU returns only one starter from last year's team, senior guard Steve Barnes. Barnes averaged 8.4 points per game and shot 48.9% from the field last season.
This should be a tune up game for the Utes, but unlike their exhibition games, this one will count in the standings. The Utes are 8-1 against SUU and 67-10 (.870) in season openers at home. Utah has also won 10 season openers in a row and have won 17 home openers in a row.
After their game with the Thunderbirds, Utah next plays on November 18th, where they travel to take on Santa Clara.
I expect a blowout, but wouldn't be surprised if SUU gave Utah a scare. If Utah can dominate, like they did against Brock University in their exhibition opener, I'll feel pretty good. The margin of victory should be 20+ points tonight and I don't think that's expecting too much.
Head Coach: Ray Giacoletti (43-21, 3rd season)
- Forward, Ricky Johns (Senior)
- Forward, Shaun Green (Sophomore)
- Center, Luke Nevill (Sophomore)
- Guard, Johnnie Bryant (Junior)
- Guard, Chris Grant (Junior)
Head Coach: Bill Evans (193-209, 15th season)
- Forward, Orlando Griego (Junior)
- Forward, Nurudeen Adepoju (Junior)
- Center, Tate Sorenson (Junior)
- Guard, Steve Barnes (Senior)
- Guard, Justin Allen (Senior)
Radio: AM 700 The Zone
Location: Huntsman Center
All-time series: Utah leads 8-1
Last meeting: 2005 (Utah 69, Southern Utah 53)