November 09, 2011
When Utah's Larry Krystkowiak learned his team had been projected last in the Pac-12 preseason poll earlier this month, the first-year coach gave reporters at the conference's media day a research project.
Holding a press release that said the media had correctly picked the eventual champion 12 times in 19 years, Krystkowiak said, "I wanted to know how many times in 19 tries have you picked the bottom team correctly. Hopefully, that's not quite as high of a number."
Unfortunately for Krystkowiak, the odds of his team exceeding expectations appear to get dimmer by the day. A Utah team already severely weakened by numerous offseason defections lost two key returners to injuries in its exhibition loss to Division II Adams State on Friday night.
7-foot-3 senior David Foster, one of the premier shot-blocking centers in the nation, will have surgery to repair a broken right foot and will be out indefinitely. Furthermore, guard Chris Hines will miss two to four weeks after falling on his ribs against Adams State.
Although the California native's offensive repertoire remains sub-par, he averaged 4.0 blocks per game as a sophomore and 3.2 as a junior. Furthermore, as one of only two seniors on Utah's roster, he's the team's most experienced player and emotional leader.
The hope for Utah was that it could generate some momentum in non-conference play against a tissue-soft schedule designed for exactly that purpose. Now even victories against the likes of Cal State Fullerton and Boise State don't look like sure things, let alone Weber State or BYU.
At least the positive outlook Krystkowiak displayed at Pac-12 Media Day will help the Utes remain optimistic.
"I certainly hope we can be one of those two or three team that's exceeds some expectations," Krystkowiak said. "But further, we're in the foundation stages. The great thing about college basketball in my mind is whatever's broken on Thursday and Saturday night in your league, you get an opportunity Sunday through Wednesday and then again on Friday to fix it. We'll address some of those shortcomings, and continue to get better."