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Runnin' Utes off to impressive start

Utah basketball beat Fresno State Saturday afternoon to move to 7-1 on the season.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Utah football might not be bowling this year, but Utah basketball is starting to make some noise.

The Runnin' Utes are 7-1 on the season and coming off an impressive home victory over the Fresno State Bulldogs. It's a fast start for a program that apparently is still riding the wave of momentum from last year's Pac-12 Tournament. Still, how good is this year's team and what should the expectations be heading into conference play next month?

Unfortunately, as impressive as Utah has looked this preseason, their schedule has been lackluster at best. Their toughest opponent, Boise State, was a loss, and a game I think the Runnin' Utes actually played well against, all things considered, but that still doesn't answer a great deal of questions many of us have about this year's team - namely, whether they can contend in the Pac-12.

While no one expects Utah to win the league, or even contend for a top spot, I believe this team has the ability to finish somewhere in the middle and that would be a huge step for a program that, really, has struggled much of the last ten years.

A finish like that might not be enough to go dancing this March, but it could get 'em into the NIT, which is something I think we would all take after the last few seasons of lackluster finishes.

What is clear is that, in year three of the Krystkowiak Era, the Runnin' Utes are on the up and it's an exciting time watching the team progress to the point where we actually expect good things and not merely hope for them.

Delon Wright, who had a career-high 23 points Saturday against the Bulldogs, is proving to be the player Utah has missed the last few seasons - one who can step in and take over a game. He's certainly establishing himself as one of the best point guards to come through Salt Lake in a long time.

What's more impressive is that there is only one senior - Renan Lenz.

There is definitely some optimism returning to the Huntsman Center and it's a enjoyable thing to watch. Even though I had my doubts about Krystkowiak when Utah hired him a few years ago, I'm 100% bought in now. He's getting it done and I think he'll take Utah basketball to some pretty great highs.

Hopefully we get some of those highs this season.

Utah basketball takes on Idaho State Tuesday and then face BYU at the Huntsman Saturday in what is looking like a monster showdown for instate supremacy.