In a roller-coaster season for Utah, the end of the schedule is in sight. Four more games remain for Larry Krystkowiak in his second season at the helm.
Barring a miracle run through the Pac-12 Conference Tournament, the end for the Utes is near. Krystkowiak knows this, yet he intends to take a few more steps in the rebuilding process this season.
On Monday, he told reporters to expect an expanded playing rotation against California on Thursday and Stanford on Sunday. Players who have carried a heavy load will be relied upon less down the stretch. Guys who haven’t played as much will get a longer look.
“We have to gear up for the league tournament, and we’re going to need everyone,” Krystkowiak said. “So we’re going to go with some different combinations, see what works and what doesn’t work. We know some guys are banged up at this point in the year, so we want to get them a little more rest. We have to win games. That’s what we’re in this for.”
The starting backcourt of Jordan Loveridge and Jason Washburn will probably see a little less time, Krystkowiak said. Rookie small forward Dakarai Tucker — who has played well in the past two games — will be in line to receive a lot more minutes.
After struggling for most of the season, Tucker has become a story in the past week. In limited action, he’s scored eight points per game against Arizona and Colorado. But his shooting has gotten better, his defense has been noteworthy and his improvement and impact have been striking.
“He’s gotten his hands on a lot of loose balls, and that’s what we look for out of guys on defense,” Krystkowiak said. “He’s probably our best anticipator on defense and he’s the one guy who has really been good and consistent in practice. We love how hard he’s worked to make himself a better player.”
There are other storylines this week. Washburn is closing in on 1,000 points for his career, needing 16 points in California to reach that milestone. The Utes also have to find a way to stop Cal’s Allen Crabbe, a frontrunner for Pac-12 Player of the Year. Injuries are also a concern, as Brandon Taylor is nursing a sprained ankle, and Washburn has a wrist injury. Krystkowiak said both are expected to practice on Monday.
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Utah at Cal
P Thursday, 7 p.m., TV • ESPNU