Looking ahead (during BYE week) to Utah Basketball

I gotta say that I have no idea what this team will be this year. Timmy Buckets, Both Gach and Riley Battin can all play–but they were primarily role players last year. I would expect them to be the starting 2 (Gach), 3 (Allen) and 4 (Battin). I know Gach can play the 1, but I’m a huge fan of Rylan Jones and would love to see him slide into that position. It seems like there was a lot of talk about the potential of Lahat Thioune at center. Will he get the start over Van Komen or Carlson? Who else is expected to contribute–and is there a future star on the roster? If the season started today, what would the starting line-up look like?

I’ve heard that Van Komen is pretty raw. I would be surprised if he was a starter. But I’m not expert or insider.

My guess at the starting lineup is optimistic:

Jones, Gach, Allen, The Finn, and Thione

If Jones is not Pac-12 ready as a freshman, or if Gach has not improved dramatically as a PG, we are in trouble. I hope the Finn is ready to play ahead of Battin, as Battin does not seem like a Pac-12 starter to me. Finally, I hope Allen makes a giant leap in his game. If all those long shot possibilities materialize, we are gonna wreck people!

Who is the kid who just got home from his mission, is it Carlson? A friend who tracks Utah B-ball closely spoke very highly of him. He loves him and the Finnish kid.

These kids will be fun to watch and they will play better than expected.

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Is that a hunch or what have you heard that gives you hope?

It’s nice that you think so, but I have no such expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I expect to see wreckage, but in the immortal words of Bob, it’s all on this side of the table. I hope I’m wrong, but if putting a winning squad together out of non-highly recruited underclassman were that easy, everyone would do it. I think we will be well under .500 in pac12 this season.

I was really trying to lay out a best case scenario. It’s possible that this team ends up being very good, but it would require a union of multiple improbable developments.

Is it possible that Jones is a Pac-12 ready PG right out of the gate? Yes, but it’s not likely.

Is it possible that Allen makes a sophomore leap to become an all-conference caliber player? Yes, we’ve seen that type of thing before. It’s not likely.

And so on. We need a few of these long odds to play out in order for this team to be successful.

One quibble - our players, for the most part, are not “non-highly recruited”. In terms of recruiting rankings, Larry’s last few classes are as good as any we’ve had at Utah. They aren’t UCLA/Duke/Kentucky good, but they are good for a school like Utah.

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I hear ya, but I think even if Jones is Pac-12 ready and Allen makes a huge leap, it still takes at a minimum 3 more players, and in reality, probably 5-6 more players to make a ‘very good’ team. Improbable is putting it mildly. I think it’s more probable that both of those things are true than it is that the rest of the pieces are good enough to make us better than average.

You are correct that I’m probably underselling them to say ‘non-highly recruited’, it’s probably better to say mildly-highly recruited. No question it has been better, but they have to be UCLA/Duke/Kentucky quality to be capable of being very good without any appreciable upperclassman experience.

Maybe I’m just trying to protect myself by stomping on any expectations, but despite a couple decent recruiting classes, but I haven’t been this pessimistic about Ute BBall since the Boylen/Giacoletti days.

There are only 11 scholarship players, and Larry has already said he may redshirt VanKomen, so depth will be an issue for this team. If a couple of guys roll ankles, we’ll be seeing way too many minutes from walkons.

I agree with Sancho “It’s possible that this team ends up being very good, but it would require a union of multiple improbable developments.”

The current depth chart (projected starters listed first) as I see it now:

PG: Gach, Jones
SG: Plummer, Brenchley
SF: Allen, Wenzel
PF: Jauntunen, Battin
C: Thioune, Carlson, Van Komen

The only ones currently locked in seem to be Allen and Thioune.

There’s a lot of versatility on the team. Allen played PF last year. Carlson can shoot, so he may see time at PF. PG is up for grabs, and all 4 guards will be tested at PG during the preseason.

There has been good inside talk about Thioune as we got to the end of last season. Possibly, his coming on strong is the mystery as to why Johnson transferred. I hope so. Carlson was highly recruited and was ahead of schedule in HS. Don’t know how fast mission rust comes off but he will be very good going forward. Gonzaga had a hard time picking between the two Utah centers, sadly, they picked first, but they are both good. Van Komen is not as ready but he is very tall. His development may not be fast enough for this year.

Jauntunen is a mystery, could need adjustment or could fit right into the Pac. International players wiith his experience are quite hard to rate and can surprise. Battin will take a step forward, which most often happens with underclassmen that play early.

Allen will be better, with this new role we have to wait to see how much better. Wenzel , Plummer and Brenchley are unknown wings. Hopefully a couple are ready to go.

We have no idea how to rate Jones. He never returned a call or engaged other schools, if he had likely he would have been ‘highly’ recruited. As it is we are lucky he is a Utah guy thru and thru. Watching him in HS you have to see he is way ahead of others in pure PG skills. I expect him to adjust but freshmen stars are quite few. Gach has uncommon skills and as he learns to control turnovers he will be a mismatch for teams in the Pac. We may see Gach and Jones together on the court some.

Progress with good chemistry is quicker than progress with chemistry problems. I don’t know what the extent of that has been in the past, but it has been reported that it is better than has been for a couple of years. Best case is when there is a respected player that takes and runs with a leadership role. Don’t know how you go about getting that guy, but it appears that Larry has been missing that guy lately.

At this point without yet a peek at the new product, I tend to be encouraged until I see that pieces are missing or need development.


A good friend of mine is big on Jauntunen, described him as a player a lot like Alex Jensen (and he isn’t one to blaspheme that way). Says he doesn’t have the offensive ability yet, but tenacious D. Also did great things on Finland’s national team. He is very pro on him and Carlson, if memory serves correctly and FWIW. His analysis of the team has always been spot on.

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FWIW an AAU guy told me that the best of Utah’s new recruits are Jones and the BYU legacy player next year at Wasatch Academy. Said he will be an NBA player.

Yes, a typical tournament team from the Pac-12 probably has 2-3 players on the all-conference 1st team, 2nd team, or honorable mention.

We’ve never really gone beyond an 8 man rotation, so we should be alright there. Maybe it matters for practice. My guess is that we end up with an 8 man rotation:

Guards: Gach, Jones, and Plummer
Forwards: Allen, Jauntunen, Battin
Centers: Thione, Carlson

Shouldn’t Allen be in that rotation?

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Wow, that’s a pretty big omission. I’m gonna edit that. Thanks

From what I’ve heard of him, that’s my expectation too. If he’s not red shirted.

One of the main reasons I like college sports is seeing the new players. It is always interesting to see how the recruits assimilate. Having said this, I am not a fan of players leaving the program for no good reason. I wish that Tillman and Johnson were still around. I hope that the addition of Donny Daniels, and hopefully some other changes, are meant to improve the dynamics within the team and help keep players in the program.

Back to this year, I am excited to see how the three sophomores play in their new roles as leaders on the team. I believe that Jantunen (rebounding) and Carlson (scoring) will make immediate impacts. I am an Olympus guy but I have a hard time believing that Jones will be able to make the jump to college play right away. I just hope he will make progress over the course of the year.

We need some reports from practice. Maybe I have missed them on here. Where is our basketball insider?

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