With a preseason ranking and a good core of returners set to come back for Utah this season, Larry Krystkowiak made sure a weak non-conference schedule wouldn’t be the reason his Utes didn’t get into the NCAA Tournament this season. Utah went to San Diego State in its second game of the year and then got Wichita State to come to its home gym over a week ago. The Utes fell by a couple buckets at Viejas Arena and were able to secure the much-needed resume win in overtime against the Shockers. And now the final major challenge outside of the Pac-12 goes down on Saturday with a trip to Kansas City. The Jayhawks are waiting. And a huge step toward the NCAA Tournament could be the reward for Utah if it puts together its best basketball game of the year.
While it does sound silly to talk NCAA Tournament in December, it’s all part of the resume. And this game looms very large for Utah. The Utes will certainly get a chance to make some noise in the Pac-12 Tournament (and they will). But league play gets tough, especially away from home. And wins over the two best programs in the state of Kansas would pop off a resume, no matter how early in the season they are.
It should also be noted that Utah comes off a win in Provo against a pretty darn good BYU team. Delon Wright starred with 18 and 11 for his side, which says two different things. Wright is a super underrated college player this year, but Utah has asked him to do far too much so far. Reyes and Poeltl have both looked fairly distant at times. And neither has really played very well against top talent when Utah has seen it. And that is one thing you’ll always get when you face Bill Self’s Jayhawks.
An introduction sentence I’ve used in each of the last three years when writing about KU: “Kansas is loaded, again.” The Jayhawks reloaded to fill the departure of Wiggins and Embiid. And the Jayhawks look like title contenders again. Perry Ellis is the man while the young recruits continue to ease into their roles. But expect many players in Kansas’ rotation to slowly begin to rise up to Ellis’ production level as the season wears on. Wayne Selden Jr. is one of the finest players in America and I really think he’ll be up for the challenge of guarding Wright.
Utah couldn’t impose its size in Salt Lake City against Wichita State, don’t count on it happening on Saturday. Rock Chalk.
Free Pick: Kansas -3.5
2014 CBB: 6-5-1 +1.50