The two newest members of the conference - Colorado and Utah - find themselves in different situations. Colorado won the conference tournament. Utah finished eleventh. That's just how things have shaken out to date.
Utah Coach Larry Krystkowiak has a plan, "We want to build our culture by design and not by default. It's important for us to get better on a daily basis with this project and fix what's broken." What's broken would appear to be the wins column but Krystkowiak has an answer for that, too. Coach K is teaching his group to be good basketball players while also melding them into "solid men and human beings." By asking his team to be ambassadors for the program, he believes the wins and losses will take care of themselves.
One person that will help in the win department is Jason Washburn. The senior averaged 11 points and 6 boards a year ago and will be relied upon more heavily this year in the absence of David Foster. "My personal goal is to elevate every level of my game." The senior leader will have to for the Utes to improve on last season's 6-25 record. Of course he won't be working alone. He'll have the help of freshman Jordan Loveridge.
K calls Loveridge "a tremendous player" who can "stretch the floor and maybe take some big guys off the dribble a little bit and also extend the floor for us." Versatility never hurt anyone. Neither did being a good person off the court; a characteristic the Utes hope to translate into victories.
Then there are the Buffs, a squad picked to finish eleventh one year ago and wound up winning the conference tournament and playing into the NCAA's third round (round of 32). When asked about it, Andre Roberson had this to say, "I feel like we haven't gained enough respect yet. I just feel like we've got to go out there and work hard every day in practice, continue to get better and just go out there and continue to prove everybody wrong once again."
It's indeed a program that has flown under the radar for a long time. That's not to say they haven't been successful but they have played little brother to big wigs like Kansas and Texas for ages, not to mention their own football program. But this group, from Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie to newcomers like Josh Scott, can hoop. Scott is a player Coach Tad Boyle believes brings a whole new component to the program, "He's a guy who can really score on the low block, which we haven't had since we have been at Colorado."
So, in case you haven't been keeping score at home, that leaves this Colorado team with a low block presence, two budding stars at guard slots and Roberson, who Boyle calls "the most underrated player on the national scene." Sounds like they just might play their way into a little respect.