Utah (7-2) will end the non-conference schedule this week in Honolulu, where they will participate in the 8th annual Diamond Head Classic. Utah is coming off an easy 92-60 win over Prairie View A&M last week. Utah appears to finally be at full strength heading into the tournament with the addition of David Collette and Sedrick Barefield last week.
Utah has historically not had success at the Diamond Head Classic, with an 0-3 overall record. That will hopefully change this week as Utah enters as the only Power 5 team in the tournament. The Utes open against the University of San Francisco with the winner advancing to play the winner of Hawaii vs. Illinois State. The losers of each game will play each other in a consolation bracket. Tulsa, San Diego State, Southern Miss and Stephen F Austin make up the other side of the bracket.
The field is not very exciting this season with all the teams having a low RPI. Utah won’t gain a lot of credit if they win the tournament, but if they lose a game it will hurt an already poor strength of schedule.
First up for the Utes is the Dons of San Francisco with an 8-2 record. USF is a good long range shooting team, shooting 41.8% as a team from the three point line. Guard Ronnie Boyce is the leading scorer for the Dons averaging 17.7 points per game with forward Chase Foster second on the team with 13.3 points per game. 6-7 forward Nate Renfro leads the team on the boards, grabbing 6.5 per game. Coming off the bench is guard Charles Minlend averaging 10.8 points per game.
Larry Krystkowiak will be looking for his team to improve in a couple of areas before entering conference play. Utah has one of the worst turnover ratios in all of college basketball, committing double digit turnovers in all but one game this season. That is an issue that will need to be cleaned up quickly if Utah is to have success in the Pac-12 this season. Utah has also struggled with consistency at the offensive end of the floor and with free throw shooting. The addition of Sedrick Barefield and David Collette will hopefully alleviate some of those issues as both showed their potential against Prairie View A&M.
Utah will have the advantage down low in the paint both on the boards and on the offensive end of the floor, especially with David Collette now in the lineup. Overall Utah is the more talented team, but the three point shot is the great equalizer. San Francisco has been successful from long range and if Utah struggles to get the offense going, San Francisco could be dangerous.
The game tips off on Thursday at 9pm MT and will be televised on ESPNU.