We all knew the Utes were likely not going to make the NCAA Tournament pretty early on this season, but the fact that they didn’t make the NIT shouldn’t sit well for most Utah fans out there. The program announced on Sunday afternoon, after the NIT picks had went out, that the season had officially come to an end.
We’re yet to see any official statement from either Larry Krystowiak or Mark Harlan about any potential options for postseason play out side of the NIT, either with the CBI or CIT. Yeah, neither would have been perfect options, but to allow the youngster to develop a little more, and to give Parker Van Dyke and Sedrick Barefield a couple of extra games would have been nice. It will be interesting to see if those were even options for the program.
The Utes season came to an end Thursday night at the hands of the Oregon Ducks, who went on to win the Pac-12 tournament. Utah finished the season 17-14 and 11-7 in the Pac-12. Unlike last season, the Utes really challenged themselves in the non-conference with games against Kentucky, Nevada, BYU and others. Maybe those extra losses kept the Utes out of the NIT, but it’s hard to say.
The Utes turned over most of the roster going into this season, and relied on freshmen and sophomores to really lead the team, but they were spearheaded by Barefield and PVD down the stretch. The Utes youth really showed in games against the likes of Oregon and Washington, who were very strong on the defensive side of the ball, leading to Utah turning over the ball at an alarming rate.
The question now is, what’s next? Utah hasn’t missed the post season since the 2012-13 season, Larry K’s 2nd second on campus. The Utes do return a lot of talent next season, who have an extra year under their belt, plus bring in some really nice recruits. The Utes need to start the season stronger next season. They’ve put themselves behind the eight ball the last couple of seasons, and while they did rally both years, it was an uphill climb, especially this season.
Utah needs to find a way to be more consistent on offense, so they don’t go through those massive spells of not making a basket, and not be as reliant on the three point shot next season. They lived and died by that shot this season. They need to up their paint game, and I’m not sure if Jayce Johnson is the guy you can look at for that. I have no doubt that the Utes will improve as the season progresses, they do that every year under K, but they need to get the momentum started early.
For now, coaches, players and fans will have to sit home this March and see what happens, as the basketball season tips off in 7 months. Fortunately, we should have plenty to distract us until then.