The cancer that has plagued the Utes all season long is what ended their season. The inability to take care of the basketball, and the missing point guard who could direct the offense when things weren't running how it should. In Utah's losses this year they had issues turning the ball over, and while that was seemingly solved over the last couple weeks of the regular season, but it raised its ugly head again in post season play, and is the ultimate reason for the teams demise.
On Saturday night, Gonzaga hit about everything they threw in the baskets direction, whether defended strongly or not. For the Utes, they just had a hard time holding onto the ball. In the first half, Gonzaga hit 8 threes to help set the pace for the game, and Utah just was looking to get into any kind of rhythm at all. That carried over into the second half, as Utah fell behind by 30 at one point, and just couldn't get any run going. The 'Zags size really plugged up the lane and made things really hard on Jakob Poeltl, and any penetration by the guards.
The frustrating thing is that so many of Utah's turnovers, in any game this season, were just so careless. It was usually just a lazy pass, or someone dribbling into the lane to get stripped, or any number of bone headed basketball decisions. You have to credit Gonzaga for capitalizing on these mistakes, but Utah just made it far to easy, and they never had the point guard that could settle things down. The team was a bunch of shooters with a big man in the middle. And when the shooters were off, and the lane was clogged, things went south for the team.
This game marks the end of the career for some very important Utes. Jordan Loveridge, Brandon Taylor, Daraki Tucker, and likely Jakob Poeltl. The three seniors have seen the Utes come all the way back from the depths of being an embarrassment, to being a Pac-12 contender, and a Sweet 16 team.
The next chapter in Utah basketball will be very interesting, as Utah will have to look to reload and replace some important pieces. Utah does have some very nice young pieces, like Kyle Kuzma, Brekkott Chapman and Lorenzo Bonam, and they will be adding a very nice recruiting class as well. The question for Utah is who will take the point guard role and lead this team next season? Bonam is much more of a two guard, a scorer, and not as much of a facilitator. Isaiah Wright regressed in his sophomore season, and would look lost on the floor most of the time. The question of who may transfer is out there as well? I know if you do the math, scholarships and the amount of players coming in next season just don't match up.
This Utah team was a very good team, but it was missing that one piece that could have made them elite in 2015-16. Here's to hoping that piece is coming on board.
In the meantime, all Utah fans need to shoot a thank you to the following names, as they'll go down in Utah lore for rebuilding the program, as it's officially back.
Jakob Poeltl (likely)
Thanks guys, and as always, Go Utes!