Runnin’ Utes Begin Season At Nevada With New Faces

Nov 4, 2019, 3:54 PM | Updated: 4:00 pm
(Photo courtesy of Jake Laramie, Utah Athletics)...
(Photo courtesy of Jake Laramie, Utah Athletics)
(Photo courtesy of Jake Laramie, Utah Athletics)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The University of Utah men’s basketball team will begin the 2019-20 season on the road against the Nevada Wolfpack.

It’s the first real test for the Utes, who bring in 12 newcomers, which is the fourth most in the entire country.

Other than practice and training camp, Utah has only played one exhibition game to get a feel of where the team is at in their progress before facing Nevada. They beat UT-Tyler 88-47 in the preseason tune-up.

Here is what to expect from Utah basketball in their season opener against Nevada:

Learning Experiences

The Utes will have 12 new faces, with 11 of those players never playing Division I basketball. The challenge for head coach Larry Krystkowiak and his staff is to get the freshmen up to speed with the pace of the game and what the culture at Utah will be. That is toughness and the ability to defend at a high level.

It’s a whole different experience for these young players from being the center piece on their high school team to being the third, fourth or fifth option on a power-five college basketball team. Utah has three players who are back from serving two-year church missions, which is a challenge because typically they don’t play basketball or condition much on their mission. When they return they have to get back in basketball shape and then have to turn it up another notch for the college game.

8-Man Rotation

After talking to Krystkowiak, he said that he wanted to establish an eight-man rotation heading into the season. Based off of the exhibition game, the likely rotation for the Utes will include the key returning players in Riley Battin, Timmy Allen and Both Gach, also freshman center Branden Carlson, former Olympus High School star Rylan Jones, freshman Mikael Jantunen, former Pleasant Grove big man Matt Van Komen and freshman Jaxson Brenchley. Junior college transfer Alfonso Plummer could work himself into the rotation as well.

Utah has two players that are at least seven-feet tall in Carlson and Van Komen (7’4). That will compliment the guards well and be able to protect the paint on defense, while getting easy looks in the paint on the offensive end.

New Nevada Team

That is the task, while preparing for a team that made the NCAA Tournament the last two seasons. Fortunately, Nevada is going through some changes of their own. They lost head coach Eric Musselman left Reno to be the head coach at Arkansas. The Wolf Pack hired former UCLA and New Mexico head coach Steve Alford.

They also return two key players from last year. They lost Caleb and Cody Martin, as well as Jordan Caroline to graduation. The trio was the three best players on the team last season. Returning this season is Jazz Johnson, who averaged 11 points per game during the 2018-19 season. The other player that is back for Nevada is Nisre Zouzoua, he posted 1.3 points per game after appearing in 21 games.

The game will begin at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday and will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.

The Crimson Corner is the one-stop for all things University of Utah Athletics hosted by Utah insider Trevor Allen. Ute fans will find interviews with current players, coaches and staff alongside expert analysis of every game, story and angle coming out of the University of Utah.

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