Are depth and minutes a concern for Runnin’ Utes as stretch run looms? Larry Krystkowiak says no

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen (1) drives on Oregon State Beavers guard Jarod Lucas (2) as the University of Utah hosts Oregon State, NCAA men's basketball in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 2, 2020.

With Both Gach on the shelf for a still-undetermined amount of time, the University of Utah men’s basketball team’s rotation is essentially seven-deep.

On a good night, seven can become eight, but the point here is the Utes do not have a long bench as February unfolds and the stretch run of the regular season looms.

Sophomore wing Timmy Allen leads Utah and is second in the Pac-12 in minutes per game at 35.0. Freshman point guard Rylan Jones is at 32.2 per outing, and whenever Gach returns, the sophomore, at full strength, is good for 30-plus if need be. .

As games add up and a young, not-terribly-deep Utah team continues to pile up possessions and minutes as part of a 30-game regular season, should there be some concern about late-season burnout?

“No, because if you look across college basketball, and I look at a bunch of box scores, I would venture to say half of the teams in America right now are having the same numbers that we do in terms of a bench,” Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak said Saturday night after his team beat Cal, 60-45, to complete a home sweep of the Bay Area schools. “It’s not unusual to have seven, eight, nine guys that you look at. Certainly, it would be nicer to get more guys involved.

“Hopefully, we can get Both back in the fray. We’ll see how next week goes with his treatment and with the follow up with the doctors and so forth.”


When • Thursday, 7 p.m. MST

TV • Pac-12 Network

In a perfect world, Gach returns healthy and is past an offensive slump that encompassed the month of January. Gach’s return could take some of what has been a heavy burden off Allen. In the four games since Gach has been out, Allen is averaging 37.5 minutes per game, which includes a 41-minute effort in an overtime win over Stanford on Thursday night.

To take this a step further, usage percentage is an estimate of the percentage of plays used by a player when he or she is on the floor. For example, Marquette star and Big East Player of the Year candidate Markus Howard leads the nation in usage percentage at 40.12. That is a gigantic number, on pace to be the highest usage percentage by a Division I player in at least the last decade.

Allen’s usage percentage of 30.5 is high, and leads the Pac-12, but should not be considered egregious.

Allen has sounded very willing to take on as much responsibility as needed. Concerns about him or any other rotation player were quelled by Krystkowiak, who made a good point about how the schedule will shake out down the stretch.

The Utes have no more two-games-in-three-days instances. They will go Thursday-Sunday this weekend at the Oregon schools, then go Thursday-Sunday again next weekend when the Los Angeles schools visit the Huntsman Center. The Stanford-Cal trip at the end of the month is Wednesday-Saturday before Utah gets a full week before Colorado visits Salt Lake City for the regular-season finale on March 7.

“It’s not an NBA schedule really,” said Krystkowiak, a nine-year NBA veteran. “When you’re grinding in an every-other-day sort of deal, I think it can take its toll, but we’re playing in college. It’s two games a week. This week, we have the extra day in between. The following week, I think we have the extra day in between, so it’s not a back-to-back thing.”