The Utah Utes fired Jim Boylen. A host of players left the program. Chris Hill hired Larry Krystkowiak, and the 2011-12 Utes went 6-25. They lost to BYU by 19, to Weber State by 29, and went 3-15 in the Pac-12 regular season. Headed into this season, Utah was picked to finish last in the Pac 12 by the media.
Things have been down for the Runnin' Utes.
But so far this season, Utah is 6-2. Several of the wins are against middling mid majors, decent competition but a poor SOS, at least according to Ken Pomeroy. Still, the Utes have already matched last year's win total just eight games in, and the two losses were to a rising Sacramento State team and SMU, who is surprisingly 8-1.
Then, Wednesday night, the Utes scored their first memorable win in the Larry K era. With fresh "RM" emblems at the bottom of their collars, memorializing the passing of legendary coach Rick Majerus, the Utes demolished rising Boise State, who had just scored a road win over ranked Creighton. Behind 18 points from Jarred DuBois, Utah shot a blistering 67.5% from the field en route to a 76-55 win over the Broncos (6-2).
So what's different from this year's team and last? DuBois, for starters. The senior transferred to Utah after three years as a solid contributor at Loyola Marymount. The 6'3" guard is averaging 16 points per game to lead the Utes, while shooting 51.5% from the field, including 50% from three. He also averages almost 4 assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. DuBois has been a god-send for Utah.
Another new face is Jordan Loveridge. The freshman forward scores 12 points and grabs 8 rebounds. Winning the services of Loveridge by recruiting will be no small thing for Utah when all is said and done.
As a team, Utah is efficient. The Utes are shooting 50.1% from the field, which is 12th-best in the country.
Though the Pac 12 is still down, Utah's competition will get better. BYU is next, followed by a rematch with SMU, and conference play is just around the corner. The season will bear out how good Utah really is.
But for now, with hot shooting and solid play from new contributors, we do know that Utah is better. How much? We'll find out on Saturday.
Bring on the Utes.