Christmas Wish List For Each In-State Team
Dec 24, 2018, 2:46 PM
(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In the spirit of the Holiday Season, KSL Sports decided to find out what would be on the wish lists of every local sports team in the state of Utah.
The Utah Jazz are in the same situation as last season, with a losing record heading into the New Year. Real Salt Lake hopes to continue to build on their solid foundation and contend once again in Major League Soccer.
Utah football has their sights set on a conference championship after winning their first division title this season.
BYU looks like they have their quarterback of the future and Utah State brings back talented weapons and their old head coach.
Each team has a present and a stocking stuffer.
Utah needs to be more consistent on the defensive and offensive end of the floor. The Jazz won’t win a lot of games when they are allowing over 110 points to teams like Dallas and Sacramento, teams that are young, rebuilding and developing.
Also, the Jazz need to be consistent with who they beat. Early in the season, they took the defending champion Golden State Warriors to the final moments and also beat them once in Salt Lake City but lose to Dallas by 50 points.
They need to start winning at home consistently as well because they are 6-7 at home and 10-11 on the road. Obviously, the Jazz have played more games on the road by a long shot but when they are in front of their home fans, Utah needs to capitalize.
Stocking Stuffer: Second Half Hot Streak… Again
With a 16-18 record and sitting in 12th place in the Western Conference, the Jazz have similar looks like the start of last season.
At this time last year, the Jazz were 15-19. They were 19-28 after losing to Atlanta on January 22. Utah finished the season 29-6 to put their record to 48-34 and a fifth seed in the playoffs.
This year they are slightly better than last year, by one game. The rest of the season sets up nicely with 28 home games and 20 road games.
They have 15 home games against teams who didn’t reach the postseason last year and 11 contests on the road that didn’t involve 2017-18 teams who made the playoffs.
Real Salt Lake
Gift: More Damir Kreilach
Some RSL fans didn’t see this coming when the club announced the signing of Damir Kreilach, at least not immediately. He scored a team best 12 goals in 2,784 minutes on the field in 33 games played. The Croatian striker/midfielder also had 8 assists which was third best on the team.
Also, fans can’t forget this amazing goal in the knockout round of the MLS Cup Playoffs against LAFC. Hopefully he can provide more goal scoring magic in 2019.
Stocking Stuffer: Road Wins
Real Salt Lake made strides in 2018 after missing the playoffs in 2017. They were able to get into the postseason by an unlikely scenario with playoff-eliminated Houston beating the LA Galaxy, who needed to win to get into the postseason.
RSL will need to win more games away from home to help them clinch a playoff spot earlier and easier. They won just three matches away from home which was the least among Western Conference playoff teams.
The club needs to win the big games down the stretch as well, losing at home to Portland 4-1 and 3-0 in Portland in the season finale were big hits to the team and would’ve put them in the playoffs in the results were opposite.
Present: 2019 Pac-12 Championship
The Utes made a big step towards this present by winning the Pac-12 South division in 2018. Utah will have 14 starters returning next season with the possibility of 17, depending on players skipping senior season to go to the NFL draft.
This past season was the year that Utah arrived at the conference championship game but is 2019 the year that the Utes win it all?
If they can convince Zack Moss to return for his senior season and they get a healthy Tyler Huntley for next season, that is a very realistic possibility.
Stocking Stuffer: A Go-To Wide Receiver
The Utes very well could have this on their roster but with Britain Covey leading the team in receiving yards with over 600 but scoring just one receiving touchdown, the Utes need a 800 to 1000 yard receiver.
Maybe Britain Covey can get to that point but his other duties in special teams and trick plays might be difficult. Solomon Enis and Jaylen Dixon showed promise in their freshman season.
Gift: Four Solid Quarters Against Utah
Utah has won the last eight meetings against BYU. It looked like the Cougars were going to steal the win at Rice Eccles in 2018 with a 28-7 lead in the third quarter. The Utes didn’t let that happen when they scored 28 unanswered and beat the Cougars 35-27. BYU’s last win over Utah was in 2009 in Provo and have lost 13 of their last 16 games against their rival.
Stocking Stuffer: Zach Wilson Lives Up To Hype
Wilson was thrown in as the starting quarterback after six games as the backup. He threw for 1,578 yards, 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions, including a perfect 18-for-18 passing performance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
The future looks bright for BYU football with Wilson as their quarterback for the next three seasons. Now, can he live up to the expectations set by the fans?
BYU has a history of quarterbacks having a great freshman season but fall deep into the sophomore slump hole that is difficult to bounce back from. Cougar fans hope that Wilson is the opposite.
Utah State Football
Present: Mountain West Championship
After the media projected Utah State to finish fourth in the mountain division of the Mountain West Conference, the Aggies proved the voters wrong with a 10-game winning streak and one more win away from hosting their first ever conference championship game.
Unfortunately, Utah State lost their regular season finale to Boise State in a winner-take-all game and the Broncos hosted Fresno State in the conference title game.
Utah State has a lot of weapons returning next season like star quarterback Jordan Love and running back duo Darwin Thompson and Gerold Bright, a conference championship is a realistic expectation.
Stocking Stuffer: Smooth Transition To Gary Andersen
After the departure of head coach Matt Wells to Texas Tech and taking most of the offensive staff with him, there is a concern for a rough transition. Andersen is a really good coach with a track record of recruiting and bringing in the right coaches.
With the weapons coming back next season, it certainly looks like there won’t be much of a drop off in Logan.
Weber State Football
Gift: FCS Semifinals Appearance
A historic season for Weber State ended with a disappointing loss to Maine at home in the quarterfinals of the FCS Playoffs. The Wildcats were set up to host all the way to the Championship game but were not able to get by the Black Bears.
With freshman running back Josh Davis returning as well as some weapons on defense being coached by Jay Hill, Weber State can accomplish this.
Stocking Stuffer: Healthy Kaden Jenks
Weber State looked like they had their future quarterback in Kaden Jenks who showed promise as a running quarterback but broke his leg against Montana State in October.
Jenks could be the answer to helping Weber State reach the next level and add to the very talented roster that Jay Hill has put together.
Present: Non-Conference Amnesia
Unless the Utes can upset No. 6 Nevada on Saturday at home, Utah will likely escape non-conference with a 6-6 record. They will need to forget the struggles quickly as they enter Pac-12 play because they open up conference action in Tempe against Arizona State, who just knocked off No. 1 Kansas. Then they take a trip to Tucson to face Arizona in the always difficult McKale Center.
The Pac-12 is having a down year (except Arizona State) so this could be Utah’s chance to get on top of the standings with two quality wins. Every Pac-12 team has lost at least twice and 10 of the 12 have four losses or more.
Stocking Stuffer: Leader On The Court
The Utes have played 11 games this season and five guys have been the leading scorer and only three of those games was the leading scorer over 20 points.
Sedrick Barefield was the leading scorer in five games and scored over 20 points just once. Parker Van Dyke and Both Gach have led the Utes in scoring twice each with both players scoring over 20 points once.
Donnie Tillman led Utah in scoring once and recently departed Vante Hendrix had one game as the leading scorer as well. With their big non-conference finale against No. 6 Nevada coming up as well as conference play, Utah needs to find their go-to scorer and needs to start putting up points.
In their 11 games this season, Utah has scored 70 points or more six times that includes Maine, Mississippi Valley State, Hawaii, Grand Canyon, Florida A&M and Northern Arizona.
Gift: More Yoeli Childs, Now And Next Season
Childs is the back bone for the Cougars this season as he is averaging 22 points per game and 10 rebounds. He scored 31 points in three straight games, being the first player to do that since Jimmer Fredette. BYU fans hope that he doesn’t take the same route as Elijah Bryant and Eric Mika, which is leaving early and playing overseas.
He has one season left after this year and could raise his NBA draft stock if he stays in Provo for one more season.
Stocking Stuffer: Keep Dave Roses’ three streaks alive
There are two big streaks that BYU is in jeopardy of snapping. First one is that the Cougars have won 20 wins or more in 13 consecutive seasons, which is tied for sixth all-time in NCAA history and fifth longest current streak.
BYU’s remaining schedule, sets them up to only losing to St. Mary’s and Gonzaga but they have to beat the rest of the West Coast Conference teams.
In the past, BYU has one or two losses to WCC teams that they necessarily shouldn’t have lost to. If they want to avoid this streak snapping, can’t lose those games without picking up wins over St. Mary’s or Gonzaga.
The other streak is 13 consecutive seasons with a trip to the postseason (NCAA or NIT tournament). If BYU doesn’t have a great WCC season and a strong outing in the conference tournament, they will likely snap this streak.
Utah State Basketball
Present: 20-Win Season
It has been six years since the Aggies have won 20 games in a season. Also, it’s been seven years since they appeared in the postseason.
Things are looking great for Utah State under Craig Smith with likely 10 wins coming out of their non-conference schedule. If they can climb into the top tier of the Mountain West when they hit tournament play, Utah State can surprise some teams like they already have and get back to 20-win seasons.
Stocking Stuffer: Get back to NCAA Tournament
It has been eight years since Utah State made their last NCAA tournament appearance. In 2001, the Aggies won their last NCAA tournament game. Even if this season isn’t the year to do it, the future is extremely bright with a young and talented head coach.
Weber State Basketball
Gift: Beat Montana
The over-whelming favorite to win the Big Sky conference when the media voted in the preseason, Weber State has a chance to host the conference tournament in Ogden if they can do one thing. Beat Montana.
The Wildcats were picked to finish in second place by the media. They have two chances to knock off the Grizzlies, January 26 in Missoula and February 14 at home.
Stocking Stuffer: Consistent Jerrick Harding
One of the best college basketball scorers on the west coast, Harding has the capability to take over any game but in some of the big contests, he has struggled.
In the nine games that Harding has played this season, he has scored over 20 points five times and Weber State won four of those games. In their three losses that he didn’t, he scored 13 against Fresno State, 9 against Utah State and 10 against Utah Valley.
Harding averages 21.2 points per game this season.
Utah Valley Basketball
Present: First Ever NCAA Tournament Appearance
The Wolverines have appeared in other postseason tournaments but have never made it to the big dance. This season, they are 10-4 with one non-conference game left and look to have another 20-win season which would be the first under Mark Pope.
Stocking Stuffer: Sign Mark Pope To Lifetime Contract
Pope has made a huge impact in Orem and in a short time. He took over in 2015 and the Wolverines were 12-18 in his first season. Pope led the team to a five win difference in 2016 with a 17-17 mark. Last season, Utah Valley finished with a 23 win season.
If Pope isn’t being looked at as a candidate for a Power-5 school this upcoming off-season, he certainly will next year. He is a young, rising star in the coaching realm.
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