The answer to Utah's problems in its mediocre 14-13 season to date may be found on its bench. And no it's not one of the team's nine reserves. It's the 6-footer wearing street clothes at the end of the bench.
Tommy Connor was all set for a big senior season along with Mitch Smith and Jimmy Madison, who came to Utah with him four years earlier. But Connor required back surgery in the fall and wasn't well enough to play this season. So he had to be redshirted by coach Lynn Archibald.The lack of Connor's leadership on the floor could be the main reason for the Utes' lack of consistency this year. His replacements just haven't panned out.
First Van Gray started at the point, but gave way to Mark Lenoir after a few games. Other players, including Bill Perkins and Kurt Christensen were tried in practice without success. So Lenoir, a more natural off-guard, has kept the job all year, but has never looked comfortable.
No less an authority than UTEP Coach Don Haskins who has seen many teams come and go during his 27 years of coaching, believes Connor's absence has meant a big difference to the Utes this year.
"Losing that little guard has made a big difference. Sometimes losing a guard is very important. I know it's going to be tough next year when we lose (Tim) Hardaway."