Mike Sorensen: Utah hoops headed for rock-bottom season

Published: Sunday, Dec. 4 2011 6:00 p.m. MST

Even some folks close to the program acknowledge that this year's Ute team will have a very difficult time winning more than a few games.

If the Utes had kept coach Jim Boylen, they would have likely won half their games this year and perhaps finished in the top half of a lousy Pac-12.

All five Ute starters would have returned, including leading scorer Will Clyburn, forward Shawn Glover and promising forward J.J. O'Brien, along with Watkins, Foster and Washburn.

However, based on Boylen's four years, athletics director Chris Hill figured the Utes' future in basketball would be a bunch of 18-15 and 14-17 seasons, not the 20-win seasons the Utes became used to under Rick Majerus for 15 years.

So Hill took somewhat of a gamble by firing Boylen with three years left on his contract and bringing in Krystkowiak.

Right now, that looks like a poor decision to many Ute fans, who have never experienced the ineptitude they're seeing so far this year.

I really don't know if Krystkowiak will turn things around at the U. He's a good guy, who hired a strong staff and has had some success as a head coach. The big key will be if he can bring in the proper talent to compete in the Pac-12 and get those players to play together.

The thing about basketball is that turning around a program in a hurry is easier than it is in football.

Utah State bounced back from its 4-23 year with a 20-9 season the next year under Rod Tueller. BYU took a little longer, but three years after hitting rock bottom, the Cougars won 22 games under Steve Cleveland.

The 2012-13 season should see major improvement for the Utes. Two of the better players in Ute practices are transfers from other D-I schools and Krystkowiak has signed four new players already, including the best player in Utah, Jordan Loveridge. And 6-foot-10 Jeremy Olsen is returning from an LDS mission.

After getting back to double-figure wins next year and to .500 the year after that, the Utes should be winning 20 games by Krystkowiak's fourth year if he's everything he's cracked up to be.

That's a lot of patience for fans of a once-proud basketball program. But that's the reality for the Utes right now.

email: sor@desnews.com

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