Larry Krystkowiak

Utah’s 2014-15 non-conference slate will be more formidable than last year’s

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Larry Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes were certainly an improved basketball team in 2013-14, winning six more games than they did in 2012-13 and earning a spot in the Postseason NIT. However even after closing the regular season with wins in three of their final four games to reach the 20-win mark, Utah wasn’t seen as a team in the mix for an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament.

And the reason for that was a simple one: their non-conference schedule didn’t offer up enough quality wins to supplement a conference slate that included wins over eventual NCAA tournament teams UCLA, Arizona State and Colorado. Friday the school announced its non-conference schedule for 2014-15, and it’s a slate that will be far more beneficial to a team looking to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.

Six of Utah’s non-conference games will be against teams that reached postseason play, including a home game against Wichita State (December 3) and contests away from Salt Lake City against BYU (December 10) and Kansas (December 13 in Kansas City). Utah will also play UNLV, which did not reach the postseason, in the MGM Grand Showcase on December 20.

“This non-conference schedule contains a challenging slate of games, both home and away,” Krystkowiak said in the release. “We as a staff have a strong belief in this team and this schedule, while getting us ready for the rigors of Pac-12 play, will help us take the next step forward.

“We also wanted to ensure our student-athletes have experiences that they can treasure and keep with them after their playing days. We are very excited for the upcoming season and can’t wait to get things rolling.”

Utah’s non-conference schedule was ranked 341st nationally according to, and a number that low won’t do a team any favors when it comes to reaching the NCAA tournament as an at-large. That shouldn’t be an issue in 2014-15, and with talented players such as guard Delon Wright and forward Jordan Loveridge leading the way Utah’s chances of reaching the field of 68 are better than they were a season ago.

And it should be noted that one date, November 18, remains unfilled on Utah’s schedule so they could add another quality opponent in the near future.

Texas lands commitment from top 100 center

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James Banks announced on Thursday that he has committed to Texas, joining Jacob Young in Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class as the head coach of the Longhorns.

Banks is an interesting prospect. A 6-foot-10 center from Georgia, Banks is a still-developing prospect that was recruited more on his potential than his immediate ability.

“James Banks emerged as a good low post prospect this spring and summer,” NBC Recruiting Analyst Scott Phillips said. “With a good set of hands, some offensive potential and a frame that can add weight, Banks is a nice upside grab for Texas.”

He’s probably a few years away from having a major impact in the Big 12, but he may not have that much time to develop. Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh and Conner Lamert all graduate after this season, meaning that Banks is going to have to contribute immediately when he sets foot on the Austin campus for the 2016-17 season.

Texas has three commitments in the Class of 2015. Smart convinced Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis to remain committed to the program when he took over for Rick Barnes while he landed a commitment from Tevin Mack, who pledged to Smart when he was at VCU.

Memphis guard could miss season with shoulder injury

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Memphis just cannot catch a break.


It’s to the point where I almost feel bad for Josh Pastner.

Today, reported that Kedren Johnson, a 6-foot-4 point guard that was on track towards being an all-SEC point guard at Vanderbilt, could end up missing the season due to a shoulder injury. If he can handle the pain he can avoid surgery and play with the injury, but at the very least, Johnson is going to be less than his best.

Johnson averaged 6.7 points and 2.7 assists last season for the Tigers. He sat out 2013-14 after leaving Vanderbilt and entered last season incredibly out of shape. There was hope that he would be able to make a bigger impact this season and help fill the void at the point guard spot.

This news comes on the heels of Memphis finding out that Jaylen Fisher is heading to UNLV. Who’s Jaylen Fisher? Well, he’s a point guard and top 40 recruit from Memphis that was Pastner’s No. 1 recruiting target that opted to leave the city for his college hoops instead of play for the Tigers.

That’s a bad sign, but not quite as bad as Memphis losing star center Austin Nichols — another local kid — to a transfer over the summer. Nichols transferred to Virginia.