Bleeding Red: While football struggles, hoops team ready to start

4 was the new 8
Now 3 is the new 7
Runnin’ Utes upsetting the odds
And creating excitement

COMMENTARY – This past week, the Runnin’ Utes hit the court at the Huntsman Center for the first time since last season for their annual “Night With the Runnin’ Utes.” You know basketball season is fast approaching when Utah hits the court for their annual scrimmage. It is a great chance to get a look at the new team and this year there was a lot to see!

utesOf the team, there are five returning players that got significant playing time last season: David Collette, Jr., Sedrick Barefield, Tyler Rawson, Parker Van Dyke and sophomore Jayce Johnson. They are not the only players returning to the squad this season, but outside of senior Gabe Bealer, most of the returnees spent their time sitting courtside on the bench last season. 

This certainly brings out a new era for the Runnin’ Utes as they are stacked with young players who will determine the future for this team. Most notable of these players is freshmen Chris Seely and Donnie Tillman. There is also Christian Popoola, who has a hairstyle reminiscent of the character Rufio in the movie Hook, and as a result I will be calling him Rufio from now on. 

David Collette

Despite being beaten soundly by the Lady Utes in two consecutive 3-point shooting contests, Utah looked good in their scrimmage. I was mostly impressed by the solid defense and the excellent passing. Most of the returning players, particularly Jayce Johnson and Jakub Jokl, seemed to have made improvements from last season and I am excited to see them in action this year. 

At the Pac-12 Media Day for men’s basketball, it was revealed that our beloved Runnin’ Utes are expected to finish seventh in the conference this season. This is reminiscent of last season, when Utah was expected to finish eighth in the conference at the beginning of the year. However, it didn’t turn out like that. By the time the season ended, the Runnin’ Utes were in fourth place.

The last four years Utah have been very consistent. In that time, Utah has won 20 or more games and has finished in the top four of the Pac-12 each year during that span. With that kind of consistency, I don’t see the Runnin’ Utes finishing so low in the conference standings. If they continue to show the consistency that they have the last four years, then count on Utah finishing within the top four yet again. Last year they finished four spots ahead of where they were predicted to finish, so perhaps they will do the same yet again and finish third in the Pac-12 and give us yet another exciting season to enjoy.

The Runnin’ Utes officially start their season on Nov. 10, at home vs. Prairie View A&M.

And one of the big winners to emerge at the U this week is the Huntsman Center scoreboard. The old scoreboard, after being erected back when Dr. Naismith first created basketball, was finally replaced with a shiny new one and it is glorious! Congrats to the Huntsman Center scoreboard for finally getting a well overdue upgrade.

Despite my excitement about basketball, football season is still in full swing. After a disappointing start to Pac-12 play, Utah elected to continue that trend by losing to Arizona State last weekend, making the Utes 1-3 in Pac-12 play and putting them in last place in the Pac-12 South Division. I admit, I’m having a hard time getting excited for football despite that we still have a little less than half the season left.

Coach Kyle Whitttingham

Before last week’s game, some of the talking heads predicted that the Utes would end up in the Holiday Bowl vs. Michigan. I’ve been having difficulties staying optimistic about Utah football this season, but I could get behind a bowl matchup like that. The last time the Utes and the Wolverines squared off it was a competitive game that ended with a Utah victory. There’s still plenty of season left to go before we know for sure where the Utes’ fate lies come postseason, but that is certainly something to pay attention to as we continue to progress.

Coach Kyle Whittingham wasn’t real upbeat at his weekly press conference Monday.

“Not a lot of positives from our game Saturday,” he said. “The bottom line, you’ve got to coach better, you’ve got to get them ready and have a better plan on both sides of the ball. We’ve got to better coaches.
“Overall, we didn’t play nearly well enough to win the football game, and that’s why we find ourselves 4-3 now, not where we wanted to be, obviously. Heading into Oregon now and they are 4-4, three-game losing streak of their own. Two teams that need a win, that’s the storyline.”

This Saturday, Utah travels to Oregon to take on the Ducks. Here’s hoping that the Utes can roast some duck this weekend!

Bleeding Red is sports column written by Josh Vance. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.

Email: sports@stgnews.com

Twitter: @oldschoolag

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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