Three road games and three losses, all to less than great competition. Utah, looking to rebound from Wednesday's heart breaking loss to Utah State, fell once again, this time to Rhode Island. It was a struggle for the Utes from the start and though they trailed for most of the game, a feverish rally in the second half and a buzzer beating three by Shaun Green forced the Utes and Rams into an overtime.
For a moment it looked as if the Utes would actually win a close game, something that had dogged them against Southern Utah, Colorado and Utah State. Yet even with a one point lead with less than 40 seconds left in the game, Utah couldn't seal the deal. After Rhode Island went up by 1 on two free throws with less than 15 seconds left, the Utes put together one final possession. With time running out, Johnny Bryant tossed up a three pointer for the win, but it missed and Luke Nevill's put back rimmed out, giving Rhode Island the one point victory. Though I didn't see the game, it looked like Nevill was hammered pretty hard on his put back, but obviously the foul was never called.
This loss stings because it shows that the Utes haven't really progressed much this season. I honestly believe, like last year, Utah will be in for a rollercoaster ride. It's a shame too, because it's clear this team has talent. Shaun Green has improved greatly, Luke Nevill is playing fantastic, yet the Utes are void of any basketball intelligence, which I think can be shouldered by this coaching staff. It also doesn't help that Utah lacks a solid point guard, something that has hindered their play all season long. But while their offense has been fickle, Utah's defense -- once a staple for this program -- has been a complete embarrassment. In all my days of watching Utah basketball, I've never seen a defense that's so soft and gets abused like the Utes' defense has this season. Defensive fundamentals must not be taught by Giacoletti, because teams can pretty much score at will on Utah. The good news is that the Utes can pretty much match them score for score, but have had a difficult time making the stops needed to win a close game.
I think it's inevitable that Giacoletti's career at Utah is over. I tried giving him time and I even believed last year was an anomaly. Except now we're living last year all over again and two consecutive losing seasons will just not cut it. I think it's time Chris Hill starts evaluating coaching prospects, because this coach just isn't cutting it.