Utah Utes

Jakob Poeltl, Jordan McLaughlin

Could a small change help Utah’s Jakob Poeltl improve his free throw numbers?

Leave a comment

Utah sophomore center Jakob Poeltl is a potential top-10 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft if he has another good season for the Utes, but he was very weak in one key area last season. The 7-foot native of Austria was an early force as a freshman last season and shot 68 percent from the floor for a Sweet 16 team, but he was only 44 percent from the charity stripe.

For a center like Poeltl, who is going to draw a lot of fouls, 44 percent is just asking opposing teams for a “hack-a-player” scenario at the end of a half.

But according to a story from Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune, Poeltl had his eyes examined during the summer and he’s wearing contact lenses again. Could this be the type of change that helps Poeltl see the basket a bit better?

The game is also easier when you can see the court clearly.

Poeltl got his eyes examined during the Nike camp, where he learned his left eye was weaker than his right. He used to wear contacts several years back, and decided to get them again this summer.

The difference is nearly imperceptible to him day-to-day. But he believes it’s helped his depth perception. The basket seems easier to gauge, and his shots seem to be going in more.

It’s hard to say if this small change will help Poeltl see the basket better and help him make more free throws, but if he can, that’s a scary thought. Draft Express currently rates Poeltl as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and he averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game in only 23.3 minutes per game last season. If improves his free-throw percentage even by a few points, it’ll be a big improvement in his game.

Four-star forward Brendan Bailey down to five schools

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Brendan Bailey, a four-star small forward, has cut his list of schools to five, telling Josh Gershon of Scout.com on Friday night that he is down to Gonzaga, Marquette, Michigan, San Diego State and Utah.

The 6-foot-7 American Fork High (Utah) product committed to Arizona State on Dec. 1. But after Herb Sendek was fired, he reopened his recruitment.

Bailey told Gershon that he has already taken official visits to Marquette and San Diego State while also using a third to take a trip to UConn. That leaves Bailey with two remaining official visits. He told Scout he’ll likely be on the Gonzaga campus the first or second week of October.

Bailey is rated as the No. 61 overall player in the senior class by Rivals. He is expected to take a two-year Mormon mission before he enrolls in college, which means he won’t start his collegiate career until 2018.

He averaged 14.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game with Dream Vision in the adidas Gauntlet Series.

Four-star power forward Mitch Lightfoot trims list to five

Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Rivals
Leave a comment

After deciding to de-commit from New Mexico and reopen his recruitment in mid-April, four-star power forward Mitch Lightfoot has seen more than a few high-major programs express interest. Sunday night the Arizona native announced that he’s cut his list to five programs with one of his home state’s flagship schools making the cut.

Arizona, which became more involved in Lightfoot’s recruitment the second time around than they were pre-New Mexico commitment, is on the list as are Kansas, St. John’s, Stanford and Utah. Of those five programs Stanford may be in the best shape when it comes to their front court rotation in the future, with Reid Travis and Michael Humphrey (like Lightfoot, a native of Arizona) both being sophomores.

Arizona will lose at least three front court players after the 2015-16 season in Kaleb Tarczewski, Ryan Anderson and Mark Tollefsen. As for Kansas, Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson are all entering their final season of eligibility and freshmen Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo (who has yet to be cleared by the NCAA) are both highly-regarded prospects.

Utah (which will host Lightfoot for an official visit September 5) may not have a single senior in its post rotation, but the Runnin’ Utes do have a sophomore in Jakob Poeltl who nearly turned pro back in the spring. And St. John’s is in a position where it needs a serious infusion of talent, especially in the front court. The good news for the Red Storm is that they’re young in that area, as none of their big men are seniors and Tennessee transfer Tariq Owens will be available in 2016-17 after he sits out the upcoming season.

Report: Matchups for Puerto Rico Tip-Off determined

AP Photo
Leave a comment

Tuesday evening it was reported by ESPN.com that the matchups for the 2015 edition of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off have been determined, with 2014 NCAA tournament participants Butler and Utah among the eight teams headed to San Juan in mid-November.

Chris Holtmann’s Bulldogs, who fell to Notre Dame in the Round of 32 this past spring, will open with Missouri Valley Conference representative Missouri State. While Butler will have to account for the loss of contributors Kameron Woods and Alex Barlow, Kellen Dunham, Andrew Chrabascz and Roosevelt Jones are back and the team adds point guard Tyler Lewis to the mix. Lewis sat out last season after transferring in from NC State. Missouri State finished the 2014-15 season with an 11-20 record.

Also on that side of the bracket are Minnesota and Temple, with the Owls coming off of a Postseason NIT appearance and the Golden Gophers missing out on postseason play after winning the NIT in 2014. The Owls will have some key departures to account for, most notably all-conference guard Will Cummings, if they’re to contend in the American Athletic Conference. Minnesota also lost some key players from 2014-15, but sophomore guard Nate Mason will be back to lead the way.

On the other side of the bracket Utah was the most successful team in 2014-15, as they reached the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual national champion Duke. Delon Wright has moved on to the NBA, but Larry Krystkowiak welcomes back most of his rotation including center Jakob Poeltl, Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge. The Runnin’ Utes open with Texas Tech, which is looking to find its footing under Tubby Smith.

The other quarterfinal matchup may be the best one of the event, as it matches two teams looking to take a major step forward in 2015-16. Miami, which reached the title game of the Postseason NIT, returns the majority of its rotation and could potentially be an NCAA tournament team. They’ll take on Mississippi State, which has made major waves this offseason. Not only did the Bulldogs hire Ben Howland to take over as head coach, but they also landed one of the top prospects in the Class of 2015 in Malik Newman.

All eight teams will get to play three games in Puerto Rico, with the tournament beginning with a quarterfinal quadruple-header November 19. There will also be four games November 20, with the tournament concluding Sunday, November 22.

Utah’s Jakob Poeltl will return to school for his sophomore season

Utah's Jakob Poeltl (AP Photo)
1 Comment
Utah’s Jakob Poeltl (AP Photo)

Utah announced on Monday morning that star center Jakob Poeltl will be returning to college for his sophomore season.

“I really enjoy it here at the University of Utah,” Poeltl said. “I love my teammates, coaches and college in general. I think another year will help my development and I’m looking forward to next season.”

READ MORE: Most Important Draft Decisions | Early Entry List

Poeltl had a chance to be a first round pick had he decided to declare for the draft, but that selection would have been based mostly on potential. A seven-foot native of Austria, Poeltl is long, athletic and mobile with terrific hands. He’s a shot-blocking presence at the rim and he was impressive at times working with Delon Wright in the pick-and-roll.

Poeltl averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 boards and 1.9 blocks this past season, and he posted 13.3 points, 5.7 boards and 3.0 blocks in three games in the NCAA tournament this past season.

Getting Poeltl back is huge for Utah, who will have a chance to remain among the best teams in the Pac-12. They lose Wright, an all-american, and big man Dallin Bachynski, but they return Poeltl and Brandon Taylor, along with the terrific recruiting class that Larry Krystkowiak brought in last season.

“One of my favorite parts of this story is that immediately after informing us of his return, he starting talking about our goals for next year’s team,” Krystkowiak stated. “He went from `me’ to `we’ pretty darn quick and that’s our culture.”

No. 1 Duke advances to Elite 8 with win over No. 5 Utah

source: AP

Duke reached the Elite 8 for the second time in three seasons with a 63-57 win over No. 5 seed Utah on Friday night in the South Regional in Houston. The Blue Devils moving on marks the 14th time they’ve reached the Elite 8 under Hall of Fame head coach Mike Krzyzewski.

Led by hometown hero Justise Winslow, Duke (32-4) put the game away in the final minutes after a 9-0 Utah run made the game, 49-43, with 4:07 remaining. A native of Houston, Winslow hit a jumper on Duke’s next possession to end the Utah run and give them control the rest of the game. The freshman wing had 21 points and 10 rebounds as he led the Blue Devils in both categories on Friday night.

Freshman guard Tyus Jones also contributed 15 points while star freshman center Jahlil Okafor had a quiet game of six points, seven rebounds and three blocks. Senior guard Quinn Cook contributed 11 points for Duke.

Both teams struggled to knock down shots from the perimeter in the domed setting of NRG Stadium, but Duke was more effective getting points on the interior, as they shot 42 percent (20-for-47) from the field while holding Utah to only 34 percent (21-for-61) shooting on the night. Neither team got going from the 3-point line as the Blue Devils were 3-for-10 from distance while the Utes were 4-for-15.

Utah (26-9) also struggled to get senior guard Delon Wright (10 points, 4-for-14 shooting) going, as he battled foul problems and an off-shooting night. The Utes picked up the slack with solid outings from its interior duo of Dallin Bachynski (11 points) and Jakob Poeltl (10 points, 9 rebounds) but it wasn’t enough to get them over the hump against Duke. Guard Branden Taylor led Utah with 15 points.

This wasn’t the prettiest win for Duke, but many predicted them to potentially get upset by San Diego State or Utah in this tournament and they’ve been able to withstand whatever has been thrown at them. Even with Okafor attempting only six field goals — and one free throw — Duke held a comfortable lead because they adapted to Utah’s defense collapsing on its star players and had other players stepped up.

Winslow picked up the slack for the Blue Devils was another positive sign heading into the Elite 8, because it appears he’s playing with a ton of confidence in his hometown instead of feeling the added pressure to perform in front of family and friends.

Duke advances to face No. 2 seed Gonzaga in the Elite 8 on Sunday. Earlier on Friday night, the Bulldogs advanced with a convincing win over No. 11 seed UCLA.