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Utah basketball: Paradise or pain for Utes in Bahamas?

Published November 23, 2011 5:54 pm

College basketball • Battle 4 Atlantis will keep trip from being just fun in the sun.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

When it comes to the Atlantis resort, Anthony Odunsi is the Utes' most experienced player.

The freshman guard from Houston vacationed there with his family last summer.

"Everybody's going to enjoy it, man," Odunsi said. "It's like living life like you've made it."

But the Utah men's basketball team hasn't "made it," and its trip to Paradise Island, Bahamas, this week is a professional one. The Utes have three games ahead of them this Thanksgiving weekend at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, starting with Harvard on Thursday. They could potentially be pitted against defending national champion Connecticut, which plays on the opposite side of the eight-team bracket.

"It's a coin flip who will go 3-0 and who will go 0-3," senior point guard Josh Watkins said. "I like that. We're the underdogs, so we got to come out swinging."

That would mean avoiding the game-opening offensive lulls of their first three games. The Utes fell behind by notable margins to San Diego Christian (10-5), Boise State (11-2) and Montana State (9-0).

The first minutes of the Montana State game were particularly disconcerting, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said.

"Even though we gave them that lead, they made some pretty good plays," he said "What I was disappointed with is the offensive inability for us. We just weren't locked into what we were doing."

That needs to change beachside, starting against the defending Ivy League co-champion Crimson. Harvard was picked to win the conference and returns every starter from last year's 23-7 team.

Former Michigan and Seton Hall coach Tommy Amaker is in his fifth season with the Crimson.

When describing Harvard, Krystkowiak might as well have been telling of a dream team exactly opposite of his Utes, or at least what the Utes might become some years into the Krystkowiak Era.

"They've got all the pieces to the puzzle," Krystkowiak said. "These guys were freshmen together, a lot of them, that are now kind of reaping some of the benefits of taking their lumps early on. They're somewhat of a well-oiled machine now."

Four Harvard players average double figures. Keith Wright leads the team with 14.3 points per game. Former Brighton High star Corbin Miller is a freshman for the Crimson and has played in spot situations in the early going for the 3-0 Crimson.

Krystkowiak said Harvard will likely be the best team the Utes have seen this year.

"They're really talented," he said. "On paper they would be the most challenging for us, for sure."

It won't get any easier as the weekend progresses. Utah will play either Florida State or Massachusetts on Friday. Along with UConn, the other side of the bracket includes UNC-Asheville, Central Florida and the College of Charleston.

boram@sltrib.com

Utah vs. Harvard

P At Atlantis Resort (Paradise Island, Bahamas)

Tipoff • Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

TV • HDNet

Radio • 700 AM

Records • Utah 1-2, Harvard 3-0

Series record • Utah 1-0

Last meeting • Utah 89-78 (Dec. 29, 1975)

About the Utes • Utah has lost two straight, including 70-64 at home against Montana State on Saturday. … Senior point guard Josh Watkins leads the Utes with 21.3 points per game. … Through three games, the Utes have committed 46 turnovers.

About the Crimson • Harvard was the Ivy League co-champion last spring, but lost to Princeton in a one-game playoff and missed a bid to the NCAA Tournament. … Coach Tommy Amaker was an All-America point guard at Duke. … Freshman point guard Corbin Miller played at Brighton and was a first-team All-State selection by The Salt Lake Tribune as a senior.