Utah basketball: Five freshmen create solid foundation on which to rebuild team
Boulder, Colo. • With Thursday night's 60-50 loss to Colorado, Utah now sits at 11-15 overall on the season.
The Utes aren't in last place in the Pac-12, but they are deep in the conversation. They are better, but not so much better that they aren't causing frustrating moments for their fan base.
And on top of that, of the last four regular-season matchups, three are against teams desperate for wins to bolster NCAA Tournament rÃ©sumÃ©s. The fourth? Oregon State, which bashed Utah in Corvallis a few weeks ago.
It all adds up to a potentially rough ending to Larry Krystkowiak's second year, even though he is fielding a much better and much more competitive outfit than his 2012 version.
"We have to win some games," freshman forward Jordan Loveridge said. "We are good enough to compete, and we are good enough to play well. But we have to do some of the things we needed to win these games that we are in."
Krystkowiak is heading toward an all-out youth movement. Freshman small forward Dakarai Tucker played his second consecutive solid game Thursday night. At 6-foot-6, Tucker scored eight points and came up with three steals in 22 minutes. He grabbed two rebounds and hit some important shots, similar to what he did against Arizona.
The coaches have lauded Tucker for his work ethic in practice and for his willingness and ability to wait his turn in the rotation. They don't believe his recent solid play is a coincidence.
In the second year of Krystkowiak's program rebuild, this has been the desired result. Going forward, Utah has a solid foundation. At one point or another this season, each of the five freshmen in the program have had their moments.
"Guys played well against Colorado," senior center Jason Washburn said. "We just didn't do enough. We definitely want to go out on a high mark, and we want to play at a high level for the rest of the season. It's just up to us to get that done."
Utah can still accomplish some things. Another win would allow the Utes to surpass the conference victory total from last season. Utah certainly appears capable of winning a game in the upcoming Pac-12 tournament. The Utes are still attempting to piece together consecutive league wins. And, of course, staying out of last place in the conference is a must.
Limiting the turnovers in the next few weeks is a requirement, especially going into California and Stanford, two well-known tough places to play against teams that are battling for their respective postseason lives.
What's at stake for Utah • A fourth conference win, staying out of last place in the Pac-12.
The good • A solid freshman class is building a foundation for the coming seasons.
The bad • That same class is taking its lumps early on.