Lynne Roberts has yet to iron out a starting five, says no role on the team is guaranteed and, in order for Utah to make the jump its desired in the Pac-12, the head coach said her Utes must embrace the parity on the roster.
And one other not-so-minor thing.
“I want us to be tougher than who we play,” said Roberts, who enters her third year as Utah women’s basketball coach. “I think that’s kind of who we have to be for us to be good.”
Utah won’t waver from the style implored by Roberts. She wants an up-tempo, tenacious defense that has a shot even when lined up across from the best programs in the country, a byproduct that comes with life in the Pac-12 Conference. The Utes are coming off a 16-15 campaign last season, but finished 5-13 in conference play.
Six true freshman are on this year’s roster.
Nevada at Utah
When • Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Utah has already seen senior forward Wendy Anae, a 6-foot-3 threat, go down with a season-ending ACL injury.
The Utes do return senior starters Emily Potter and Tanaeya BoClair as well as junior guard Erika Bean. Returners from last year must up their game, whether they establish themselves in the starting lineup or not. Ditto for the freshman class, although guard Dru Gylten (ACL) is out for the season and will redshirt. Finnish freshman forward Elli Koskinen is banged up at the moment, as is freshman guard Jordan Cruz, who is on the mend from a concussion.
“Whether you start or not, doesn’t really matter,” Roberts said, “because we’re going to need everybody.”
Potter (13.7 points per game, 8.2 rebounds per game) and BoClair (9.8 points per game, 4.2 rebounds per game) are likely focal points. It’s critical, Roberts said, to get Potter, a versatile 6-foot-6 scorer, help this year. In seasons past, scouting reports on Utah have been too simple, and it started with “Stop Potter.”
“I think we’re ready to make a jump this year,” Potter said at last month’s Pac-12 Media Days.
Roberts anticipates redshirt junior forward Megan Huff to step up this year. Same goes for freshman guard Tori Williams and freshman forward Maurane Corbin. A priority early in the year for Roberts is to cut out the turnovers that have hampered the Utes the past two seasons. Poor shot selection, too.
“A bad shot is a turnover,” Roberts said.
Utah was the worst 3-point shooting team in the conference a year ago and ranked 10th in turnover margin.
“If we’re going to make a move in the Pac-12 — we were picked to finish ninth — if we’re not going to finish ninth, we’ve got to fix that,” Roberts said.
Utah women’s basketball overview
Key returnees • F Emily Potter, F Tanaeya BoClair, G Erika Bean, F Megan Huff, G Kiana Moore.
Key losses • F Paige Crozon, G Malia Nawahine (transferred to BYU), F Wendy Anae (season-ending ACL injury).
Key newcomers • F Maurane Corbin, G Tori Williams, F Elli Koskinen, G Jordan Cruz.
Outlook • The Utes want to make a jump in Year 3 in the Roberts era, and that’s what she’s counting on. In the vaunted Pac-12, however, it will be a tall task. The conference set a record a year ago with seven teams making the NCAA Tournament. Utah will need Potter to remain a go-to option, while needing at least two other main scoring threats to develop.