It's here, the season-opener. In five hours, the Utes will begin their second go-around under Larry Krystkowiak.
Utah is a heavy favorite to defeat the Bearcats tonight at the Huntsman Center. Here are five keys for the Utes, if they want to have a good showing.
1) Giants rule - Utah will have a significant size advantage, with five players over 6-foot-10, compared to Willamette having nobody over 6-6. The Utes should pound the ball inside to Jason Washburn early and often. On missed shots, get to the offensive glass. Eventually, Willamette will experience foul trouble, and that could lead to Utah getting into the penalty early and often.
2) Contain Terrell Malley - He's the best scorer and player for the Bearcats and is a legit option to score 20 plus points tonight. Malley is good off the dribble, yet can shoot the jumper from the perimeter. The Utes will have to keep him out of the lane in order to keep the Utah bigs out of foul trouble. That onus falls on Glen Dean and Brandon Taylor.
3) Get the rookies comfortable - Two freshmen - Jordan Loveridge and Justin Seymour - will start in their collegiate debuts. A third - Dakari Tucker - will see big minutes off the bench. A fourth - Brandon Taylor - will play. You get the picture. All of a sudden, the Utes have become a romper room. The freshmen will play big roles, especially with some veterans out. It's up to Dean, and Washburn and Cedric Martin to make things work and show the younger guys the way.
4) Make shots - This seems so easy, yet it should never be an overlooked part of the game. Utah will get open looks. Making them will mean the difference between an easy night or a replica of last season's opener against San Diego Christian. Utah has two shotmakers - Aaron Dotson and Jarred DuBois - sidelined by inury. Who will step up?
5) Short memory - The stink of last year can be erased with a good start. Not completely, but steps to rid the fanbase and the program of the 2011 feeling can be taken with a blowout tonight. Struggle, and the questions will return. Utah is a significantly more talented team than last season. But are the Utes actually BETTER?
Tune in to find out.