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What are realistic expectations for next year?

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New coach, new attitude, more wins? What would be an acceptable won/loss record for the Utes next year under a new coach? Obviously if the Utes continue their struggles into next year there will be some doubt as to whether the new coach can get it done. But we all know that transition years doesn't necessarily mean squat in the whole scheme of things and I'll wager that Utah's final record won't really matter under the next head coach, rather their play will.

The problem with Giacoletti's Utes over the past two years was that it looked like he wasn't a good Xs and Os coach. Utah's defense struggled and there were times the offense stalled worse than a 1980s Ford Pinto. And like the Pinto, it often just exploded in dismal array of basketball. If the new coach comes in and loses a few games here and there, but the teams actually play strong, hard and look as if they're doing their best, I don't think it would be possible to get too depressed over losing. Granted it's tough to tell, especially in losses, if a team has played well enough to see progress. But I expect defense to improve, meaning opponents should not have record nights from three point range, and the offense to not go into scoring droughts worthy of the Sahara Desert.

What I want to see next year is improvement, and that could mean minimal improvement in the record early on. Of course I think if the Utes are playing up to their potential and the next coach is a solid Xs and Os guy, wins will come. But just in case the Utes come up a little short a few nights against stronger opponents, I won't panic yet. Right now it's not clear if this Utah team has the talent to win 20 or more games and make the NCAA Tournament. They've show signs of success, but we can only speculate on whether it's decent enough talent to carry this program back to the elite. If this isn't the case and the talent isn't as good as Utah fans might think, then there is a good chance it could take a year or two before a coach starts seeing success.

Even with all that said, I don't expect a losing record next year and this team should never sniff 19 losses again. A .500 record would be acceptable if I felt they were improving and playing extremely well, much like the Utes did in 1994. Getting to 17 or 18 wins would have me pumped for the future and 20 or more wins would have me near orgasmic.  

Expectations will probably be lower than they were when Ray Giacoletti took over for Rick Majerus in the 2004-2005 season. And that's good, I think that works perfectly for the next head coach. But expectations won't be that low forever and that means the next coach will have a short window to get everything right again.

Next year Utah should have a winning record, a winning conference record, a possible NIT appearance and a victory over BYU. If that doesn't happen, then I hope there is at least signs things are going in the right direction, or I will be a bit concerened. With that said, I think under a good coach like Larry K or Gregg Marshall, the Utes will dominate once again.