Slowly but surely, Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah basketball program is taking steps back towards respectability.
After winning just six games in his first season at the Pac-12 school, Krystkowiak’s team improved its win total by nine games in 2012-13 and reached the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament. With rising sophomores Jordan Loveridge and Brandon Taylor being joined by a six-member recruiting class that includes junior guard Delon Wright, the hope is that the Utes can improve their standing within the conference (5-13 record last season) in 2013-14.
Coach Krystkowiak and his staff have done a good job on the recruiting trail as well, and on Friday it was reported by Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune that 6-8 forward Kyle Kuzma has verbally committed to attend Utah. The versatile Kuzma, who some have described as a “point forward,” joins 6-8 forward Brekkott Chapman as commitments in Utah’s 2014 class.
Utah will lose just one senior at the end of the 2013-14 campaign, with that playing being 6-9 power forward Renan Lenz. Utah was in a bit of a downward spiral towards the end of their time in the Mountain West, and their move to the Pac-12 made the rebuilding process a little tougher. But with the newcomers on board to join key contributors such as Loveridge and Taylor, things may be starting to look up for a program that during the 1990s was one of the best in the western United States.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.