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Thursday, December 6, 2012

University of Utah basketball: Is Larry Krystkowiak the answer the Utes have been looking for?

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University of Utah basketball in the 1990s was something special. The team won. A lot.

The last decade has not been so kind. Since the departure of Rick Majerus, Utah has been through one coach after another.

When Larry Krystkowiak was hired to coach the Utah men's basketball team last year, hopes weren't very high - and justimfiably so. Several players abruptly transferred (with good reason), a star player was injured, the Utes were transitioning from the Mountain West to the Pac-12, etc... All of these forces combined led to a dismal 6-25 record.

Most everyone likely assumed that first year would be bad. However, even when you expect a bad year there is typically a hope somewhere the team will surprise you. A record that bad always seems to sting more when it has been realized than when it was merely being contemplated, or even anticipated.

Fast forward... not very far. In Krystkowiak second year, the Utes so far are a 6-2 team. Granted, the competition hasn't been extraordinarily stellar, but Krystkowiak's boys did beat an impressive Boise State team.

And through eight games, the University of Utah men's basketball team has already equaled its win total for all of last year.

The competition will become more intense as the Utes enter into their second year of Pac-12 play. However, if Utah were to maintain it's current win percentage, they would comfortably finish the year with 20+ wins. And if the Pac-12 has an up year, that would almost certainly mean an invitation to participate in the madness of March.

To go from a six-win season to a 20+ win year that results in a NCAA tournament invitation would be remarkable.

However, it's important not to put the cart before the horse.

There is a lot of basketball yet to be played. But what Krystkowiak has done with this Utah basketball team is impressive and much more than I expected.

No disrespect to those coaches who attempted to fill the gap in the culture of winning left by the complex Rick Majerus. Each of them gave it their best shot, and for whatever reasons, fell short of what was expected and desired of them.

Perhaps Utah fans will look back on Krystkowiak as the coach who finally restored the university's culture of winning on the basketball court.

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