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2014-15 Season Preview: Utah

Utah and Delon Wright hope to build on last season's success and make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.

Delon Wright is one of the favorites to win Pac-12 Player of the Year
Delon Wright is one of the favorites to win Pac-12 Player of the Year
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Last Season: The Utes started off the season 11-1, but their schedule made it difficult to boast about that record. Some of their non-conference wins came over Evergreen St., Grand Canyon, Savannah St. and a couple of other schools no one has ever heard of. And 11 of their 12 wins came at home. Utah finished the season 21-12, and 9-9 in conference with wins over Colorado, Arizona St. and UCLA. But the fact that they had the 350th worst non-conference schedule, according to KenPom, didn't help their NCAA Tournament chances. Those chances could have been improved, however, if they had won any of their seven conference losses that came by four points or fewer.

Key Losses: Princeton Onwas and Renan Lenz both are no longer on Utah's roster with the former transferring to San Jose St. and the latter graduating. Onwas started 11 games last season and averaged 17.9 minutes and 4.8 points per game, but he wasn't much more than a role player. At 6-foot-9, Lenz provided some depth up front for Utah, yet only averaged 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.

Notable Returning Players: Delon Wright, Utah's do-everything player last year, should be one of the favorites to win Pac-12 Player of the Year. He led the team in scoring, assists, steals and blocks and was second on the team in rebounding. He had the fifth-best assist-to-turnover ratio, third-best field-goal percentage and averaged the most minutes per game in the conference. And he had a top 50 true shooting percentage and top 150 offensive rating in the nation. But what might stand out the most is that 61 percent of his shots came at the rim and he shot 71 percent on those attempts. That is absurd for a guard. Combine that with his defensive abilities and it's hard to find a better player in the conference.

Wright isn't the only returning player that can get to the rim. Jordan Loveridge made 62 percent of his attempts at the rim and would be Utah's best player if Wright wasn't on the roster. The 6-foot-6 wing averaged 14.4 points and 7 rebounds per game last season, but struggles with his outside shot as he made 38 percent of his two-point jumpers and 30 percent of his threes.

Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker are also back giving Krystkowiak four returning starters from last season. Taylor is the best three-point shooter on the roster and hit 40 percent of his attempts. He averaged 10.6 points and 3.5 assists per game, but is undersized for a guard at 5-foot-10. Tucker is another one of Utah's better three-point shooters. He shot 39 percent from beyond the arc, but did little else offensively than catch and shoot. 70 percent of his two-point jumpers and 93 percent of three-pointers were assisted. Kenneth Ogbe returns after averaging 9.3 minutes per game last season and should become more of a rotation player this season in the backcourt.

Dallin Bachynski and Jeremy Olsen will return as Utah's featured big men this year. Bachynski, brother of Arizona St.'s Jordan, had the top offensive rating, the best offensive and defensive rebounding rates and the best block rate on the team last year. Bachynski started late last season, but he did only average 19 minutes per game and committed 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes. Olsen, who lost his starting job to Bachynski, also committed 6.2 fouls per 40 minutes and only averaged 2.7 rebounds per game despite his size. Both centers have room to improve, so it's beneficial for Krystkowiak to have the 7-foot Bachysnki and 6-foot-10 Olsen at his disposal.

Key Newcomers: Brekkott Chapman is a four-star and ESPN Top 100 recruit that could immediately fight for a starting spot for the Utes. Chapman is a 6-foot-8 power forward and has the ability to get his own shot. He's likely a better complement to the starting lineup than Tucker. And he could push Loveridge down to the three instead of the four, which was where he was starting late last season, and allow the Utes to match up better defensively.

Kyle Kuzma, who redshirted last season, could push for starting minutes at the four as well. Kuzma can stretch the floor with his shot and has the ability to score in the post at 6-foot-9. 7-foot Jakob Poeltl is a product from Austria and could spell Olsen or Bachysnki for periods of time. Finally, there's JUCO transfer Chris Reyes and point guard Isaiah Wright. Reyes is a 6-foot-7 forward that can score and rebound inside and help off of the bench. He played at St. Mary's before transferring to junior college. Wright is a legitimate facilitator and has the potential to be the future starting point guard for the Utes.

Notable Non-Conference Games: The strength of their non-conference schedule won't be an issue this year. Utah has some weak opponents like South Dakota St., North Dakota and Alabama St. But they also face San Diego St. and BYU on the road and host Wichita St. Late in December, Utah will play at two neutral sites, but they essentially are road games. They'll travel to Kansas City to play Kansas in the Sprint Center and then play UNLV in the MGM Grand Showcase in Las Vegas.

Conference Stretch to Look at: Utah starts off Pac-12 play with three home games against USC, UCLA and Colorado. And then they have a road trip to face off with Arizona St. and Arizona. The Utes and Wildcats could both be 4-0 early in Pac-12 play for an upcoming showdown between the top two teams in the conference.

Best-Case: Utah beats San Diego St. and UNLV in non-conference and heads into conference play with loads of confidence. The Utes split their season series with Arizona, have one of the best defensive teams in the Pac-12 and finish second in the conference. Delon Wright wins Pac-12 Player of the Year and leads Utah to the Elite Eight.

Worst-Case: Delon Wright can't get to the rim with the ease he did last season and the offense sputters. The tougher non-conference schedule backfires and they can't get win any close games once again. They have a stressful conference season with no easy wins, but do enough to make the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Finish: 2nd