Bleeding Red: Looking on the bright side of dreadful season

A lesson my mom taught her brood
Also applies to basketball
If you can’t say anything good
Then don’t say anything at all

COMMENTARY – I could go on and on about the many deficiencies of the Runnin’ Utes – but I won’t.

I could talk about how the Runnin’ Utes have become less competitive as the season has worn on. Utah had a single conference win in its first seven games. However, they consistently played high-caliber teams – even nationally-ranked teams – close, even though they may have lost. Utah suffered its first six conference losses by an average margin of defeat of 7.3 points. In Utah’s last eight conference contests, Utah has picked up two more wins. But on the other side of the coin, the margin of defeat for Utah’s last six conference losses has ballooned to a whopping 17.3 points.

I could talk about how the Runnin’ Utes are next to last in the Pac-12 in turnover margin. On average, Utah turns the ball over 12.2 times per game in conference play, and only gets 10.9 takeaways per game, for a -1.31 turnover margin. This is not a new phenomenon, but rather is something the Runnin’ Utes have struggled with all-season long. Opposing teams are paying attention to scouting reports and trapping Utah more and more. Until the Runnin’ Utes figure out how to take care of the ball, opposing teams will continue to make them pay.

I could also talk about how the Runnin’ Utes are dead last in the Pac-12 in scoring offense. The really frustrating thing is that Utah is fifth in the Pac-12 in assists and is sixth in 3-point shooting field goal percentage. In other words, Utah moves the ball well and can shoot from behind the arc. The problem is they just aren’t shooting it near enough – they are dead last in the conference in number of field goals attempted. Just shoot the ball!

Not coincidentally, Utah is also dead last in the Pac-12 in offensive rebounds, meaning they aren’t getting many second shots. Add in the empty possessions with no shot attempt at all due to turnovers and Utah’s scoring problems come as no surprise.

I could talk about how the Runnin’ Utes vaunted defense has slipped considerably in conference play. Similar to Utah’s football team, the Runnin’ Utes have been defined primarily by their defense this season. Utah is still second in the Pac-12 overall in both scoring defense and field goal percentage defense. However, when you look at just the conference statistics, Utah slips to seventh in scoring defense, and sixth in field goal percentage defense. That explains in part why Utah boasted an 8-4 non-conference record, but only has a 3-13 conference record.

No, I am not one to dwell on faults and shortcomings; that is just not my style. Most everyone has some redeeming qualities about them, and deserves to be praised for the things they do well.

The Runnin’ Utes are number one, numero uno, top dog in the Pac-12 in free throw shooting percentage. Of course, they are dead last in the number of free throws attempted (which I am not going to talk about), but when they do make it to the charity stripe, they really know how to put the ball in the hoop. Free throw shooting is primarily mental and it is a good sign that Utah consistently has the mental focus to shoot free throws at such a high percentage as a team.

Utah’s fans also deserve a ton of credit as well. Only Arizona, UCLA and Colorado average more fans per home game than Utah. It should be relatively easy to draw fans to home games when your team is playing well. It is a testament to the loyalty of the faithful Runnin’ Ute fans that they consistently still come out to see their team play even when Utah is struggling to win games. I really like that. Win or lose, the Runnin’ Utes are still our team, and we will always be there to support them.

Runnin’ Ute fans get two more chances to see their team play at home as Utah prepares for its last home stand of the season. Utah hosts Oregon State Thursday and then 19th-ranked Oregon visits the Huntsman Center Saturday night.


Dwayne Vance is a sports commentator. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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