View from the Booth: Questions at Utah: Who will be back and will they be better?

Published: Thursday, March 8 2012 7:33 p.m. MST

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 07: Colorado Buffaloes fans cheer during the game with the Utah Utes during the first round of the Pac12 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

Ok, let's get the really ugly stuff out of the way first. The worst season in the history of Utah basketball has come to a conclusion. After 31 games and more than four months of basketball, the first season of the Larry Krystkowiak era ends with six wins and 25 losses.

It wasn't exactly the way most Utah fans hoped their first season as members of the Pac-12 would play out. Now that it's over, the biggest questions on everyone's mind are: Who comes back from this team next year? And how much better will they be?

The first question is hard to answer because I'm not sure that the coaching staff knows who will be back and who will move on from the program. This process will be a tough one for Krystkowiak and his staff because they brought these kids to Utah just a year ago, and now they will have to send some of them packing to another destination.

There may be some out there who say this isn't fair to the kids, but the fact is, scholarships aren't four-year guarantees. The cold hard truth is some of the current members of the Utah basketball team aren't good enough to play in the Pac-12.

Rest assured, the Utah coaching staff will do its very best to help find anyone that leaves a new school and place to play basketball.

So that brings us to the second question, how much better will they be? It's a question that I get daily from fans and people that really care about Utah basketball, and frankly, it's something I've been thinking about all season long as I've watched this year's team play.

I've talked about it with much smarter basketball people than myself, people that know the program well like Jimmy Soto and Josh Grant — two guys who care about the program more than most because they helped build it and are part of its rich history.

The one conclusion that I've come to is that the program will be much better next season. What that means in terms of wins and losses remains to be seen, but I'm confident that things will be markedly better next year and here are three reasons why.

First, Larry Krystkowiak. Before the season started, I had spent a little bit of time around Krystkowiak and his staff, but mostly they were very distant and guarded. They had a ton of work to do.

As the season has rolled along and I've gotten to spend a good deal of time with Larry and his staff, what has stood out to me is that these guys know what they are doing and have a plan.

But most importantly, in a season where losses were plentiful and the margins of loss big, his team never gave up or quit on him. That tells me that the kids believe and respect what he is teaching. In today's college game, that's more than half the battle.

Second, the foundation. Utah will have a good foundation of quality players returning next season. Three players with Division I experience who have been sitting out: David Foster, Glen Dean and Aaron Dotson can return to the court. Plus, veterans Chris Hines and Jason Washburn return from this year's squad.

Third, the recruits. As hard as Krystkowiak and his staff have worked in practice and games coaching this season, they have worked perhaps even harder on the recruiting trail.

Assistant coach DeMarlo Slocum will likely be in the "Million Mile Club" by the end of April. They already have a class of five committed, highlighted by ESPN Top-100 and West Jordan High star Jordan Loveridge.

There will likely be more commits this spring too, with point guard, a wing scorer and power forward all positions of need.

Utah fans need to remember this season for the good and the bad. Don't forget 6-25 because as the basketball program begins to trend in the other direction and I believe it will, you will have much more of an appreciation for the good times ahead. How much better will the Utes be next season? Only time will tell in wins and losses, but my expectation is much better.

Bill Riley can be heard as the voice of the University of Utah on gamedays and also weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on the "Bill Riley Show" on ESPN Radio 700 AM.

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