Latest loss suggests Utah may be historically bad this season

The most pressing question facing Utah right now no longer is merely whether the Utes are the worst major-conference team in the nation this season.

Instead it's whether they're capable of winning even a single game against a Division I opponent.

A humbling 81-50 loss to lightly regarded Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night was the program's most lopsided defeat ever in the 42-year history of the Huntsman Center. The Utes surrendered the first 14 points of the game, shot 35.3 percent from the field and lost the rebounding battle 45-18, all to a team that has fallen to Houston Baptist and Cal State Bakersfield already this season.

Such a horrid performance would be more forgivable from Utah were it not representative of the type of season the Utes (1-7) have endured. Not only have they lost by 30 to Fresno State, by 22 to UNC Asheville and by 21 to Boise State, their only victory was a 58-55 squeaker against NAIA San Diego Christian, which went 8-22 last season and 2-18 in its league.

Perhaps it's premature to suggest Utah could actually lose to every Division I opponent it faces this season, but consider some stats for a moment.

The only game left on the schedule where the Utes may be favored is next Friday against Idaho State, a bottom-feeding Big Sky team with a 2-6 record and only one Division I win so far this season. Even in a Pac-12 that is by all accounts weak again this season, college basketball statistical guru Ken Pomeroy's metrics show a one in five chance Utah may become the first team since 2007-08 Oregon State to go 0-18 in conference play.

How did Utah go from mediocre a year ago in Jim Boylen's final season to historically bad in Krystkowiak's first year? A combination of injuries, suspensions and roster turnover in the wake of the coaching change. 

Eight players left the program after Krystkowiak was hired to replace Boylen on April 3 including leading scorer Will Clyburn (Iowa State) and promising freshman J.J. O'Brien (San Diego State). Making matters worse, 7-foot-3 shot blocker David Foster suffered a broken foot in a season-opening exhibition loss to Division II Adams State. And finally came this week's news that leading scorer Josh "Jiggy" Watkins has been suspended indefinitely for a series of team rules violations.

Credit Krystkowiak for trying to show current and future players what he expects from them by suspending Watkins, but there simply aren't many bright spots on the roster besides the 6-foot senior guard. The only other players who have shown much promise so far are juniors Jason Washburn and Chris Hines, both Boylen holdovers.

The only way Krystkowiak can turn around this program is to hit the recruiting trail and sell prospects on the idea of immediate playing time available at a Pac-12 school with ample tradition and a fan base that deserves better than this. Even then, the program is at such a nadir that it's difficult to imagine anything shorter than a three- or four-year rebuilding process.

One final example of how dreadful Utah's start has been this season is to compare it to the 2007-08 Oregon State team that previously set the standard for futility in the Pac-10.

A 24-point road win at Cal State Bakersfield and a 10-point home win over Portland were two of the six Division I victories the Beavers posted that season. Utah, on the other hand, is still searching for its first.

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