The Utah Basketball team was pretty good in 2013-14. A young team, that one could tell was almost there. There were many games that came down to the last possession. Sometimes in the Utes' favor, and others ended in a loss. The Utes had the number of wins to make the NCAA tournament, but the pundits pointed to their perceived weak schedule. They didn't get in the Big Dance, and had to settle for the NIT. A tournament that ended a post season drought, but one that saw them dispatched in the first round at St Mary's.
Fast forward to 2014-15, most of the team was returning, including All-American Delon Wright, and a handful of highly touted freshmen. One of those freshmen really stood out, literally from the rest - Jakob Poeltl the 7-foot tall Center from Austria - not really a country known for it's basketball talent. His parents were world class volleyball players, so sports are in his blood. He chose the Utes over Cal and Arizona, which was a huge recruiting win for Larry Krystkowiak. He seemed to be the type of freshman that could have an instant impact for the Utes. Utah was a team that desperately wanted to get back to the NCAA Tournament, which is where many believe the Utah program belongs every year.
Poeltl found himself staring lineup from the first tip, and instantly made an impact. The type of player that Utah hasn't seen since Andrew Bogut. Jakob started all 34 games he played in, missing only one for precautionary reasons. He pulled down 230 rebounds, with 92 coming on the offensive end - something Utah struggled with a year before. He shot a staggering 68.1 percent from the floor, with many coming from dunks. The most important thing he did was take a lot of pressure off Delon Wright. With Poeltl on the floor, teams could not concentrate on Wright. Poeltl didn't only help Wright's game, but other members of the squad. When he was on the floor, his teammates found themselves unmarked as their defenders were concentrating on Peoltl and Wright.
He had 63 blocks, 12 assists, and averaged 9.1 points per game. One would expect his stats will increase next year, due to an extra year of experience. If he can improve on his .444 free throw shooting percentage, his points per game will obviously increase, as he missed out on a lot of points at the line.
With Wright gone, Poeltl will be more of a focal point on offense. To have a good 2015-16, he'll have to stay out of foul trouble. There isn't the proven commodity of someone like Dallin Bachynski behind him, and Jakob on the bench doesn't help the Utes. Another good year, and Utah will have an even bigger impact this season, and Poeltl will be a top 10 pick in the NBA draft.
Make sure to keep your eyes open for the next part of our top 10 series.