Wichita State no problem. BYU please. The beefed up schedule for 2014-15 is well underway. With one road win down, the Utes head to Kansas City, Mo. for a semi-neutral site match up with No 10 Kansas. When the schedule was put down on paper, this may have been one that some marked down for a loss, but here are some of the reasons Utah could be flying back to SLC with KC Barbecue in the their bellies, and a W in the win column.
Reason 1 – Teenage Mutant Ninja Poeltl
Jakob Peoltl is just what the Utes needed down low. The 7-foot freshman has been outstanding for the Utes, and grabbed the center position in the Utah lineup and ran with it. Shooting 72 percent from the field and bringing down 74 rebounds (30 offensive), Peoltl has NBA scouts drooling. Where his game needs improvement is from the free throw line. He is shooting 45 percent from the line (22-49). If he improves that aspect of his game, he may not be around next season. If he can make his presence known in this game, especially getting to the line and hitting those shots, the sky may be the limit for him and the rest of the team.
Reason 2 – The Wright Stuff
Utah's senior guard Delon Wright has turned the heads of a lot of people, and he is impressing plenty of folks around the country with his all-around game. Wright is filling up the stat sheet, averaging 15.4 points and 5.5 rebounds a game. He also has 39 assists, 10 blocks, and 14 steals. He has asserted himself as a leader for the Utes, and is the engine that moves the team. When teams try to shut him down, he's using that to his advantage and finding the open man. When his shots aren't going down, like against San Diego State, the team struggles, but is not out of it. Delon is an exceptional player that makes his team better in many ways. If he is on his game Saturday, the Utes should win.
Reason 3 – New and Improved Utes
The Utes are a great team. A phrase that may not seemed possible a few years ago. They Utes had fallen so far, one had to wonder how long it would take to recover and rebuilt a once-proud program. Now the Utes are full of talent from freshman to senior. A star having to sit a couple years ago would have been devastating to the team. This season, when a player has been out with injury or foul trouble, the replacement doesn't skip a beat. Junior Jordan Loveridge is out for a month after minor knee surgery, but the Utes team has responded, and one may not notice the Utes are missing a key contributor. Freshman Brekkot Chapman was playing well on Wednesday but got in foul trouble. Freshman Kyle Kuzma came in and helped the Utes regain and maintain the lead. Peoltl sat versus Wichita State, and senior center (and former starter) Dallin Bachynski comes in and had key plays to help the Utes win. A strong team, top to bottom, is hard to beat. The team aspect these Utes have this year will continue give Utah a lot of success. Saturday should be no different.
A good game from Poeltl, Wright, and the rest of the key contributors for the Utes, and win over Kansas, may be in the bag. If Utah, and especially Poeltl, hit their free throws, this Utah team will soon find it's way into the Top 10, just in time for conference play.