Texas shot a season-high 63.6% (35-of-55) Sunday, and beat Utah 78-56 in the round of 32. The Longhorns’ previous high was on Nov. 9 vs. New Orleans (NET 342), when they shot 61% (47-of-77) in a 131-36 win.
35 of 55. I tweeted in exasperation “Does Texas always shoot this well?”. Couple that with full court pressure akin to Arizona’s or Colorado’s, and AP #6 Texas looks capable of beating South Carolina or Stanford.
Utah finished at 21-12, 16 wins better than last year, with their first NCAA appearance in the Roberts era, their first Pac-12 tournament final, and a bunch of post-season awards. Utah’s bandwagoneers share an opinion that the program has a bright future ahead, because that’s life on the bandwagon: Nothing but clear skies.
Maybe I’m the only one that thinks the Utes are in a precarious place.
What’s next year’s milestone? Let’s say it’s merely three or four more wins. One or two additional regular season wins earns a tournament bye. One more win in the tournament earns an automatic NCAA berth. One more win in the NCAA tournament means a trip to the regional finals site.
Doable? Not unless Utah is at least as well furnished at the one as they were this year. The easiest solution is for the coaching staff to persuade fifth-year senior Dru Gylten to return for a sixth, but this seems unlikely, considering Dru took part in senior night ceremony, and she also got engaged.
Without Dru, Utah is left with one one, freshman Ines Vieira, the fastest woman I’ve ever seen on a basketball floor. The only analogous NBA player is Leandro Barbosa, whom Phoenix Suns radio man Al McCoy calls “the Brazilian Blur”. Vieira is so fast that she can make steals by overtaking the ballhandler from behind, running around her, and swiping the ball without fouling. She scores and rebounds a bit more than Dru, but Dru defies quantification.
Dru Gylten is the heart and soul of the Utah Utes, the straw that stirs the drink, the spark that drives the engine, the catalyst that generates the chemistry, the coach on the floor, the elder statesman. She’s the first player Coach Roberts said I’d love, and was correct in the prediction.
Dru is irreplaceable, but her absence is inevitable. It’s not in the team’s scheme to let Vieira play 38 minutes, so what are their options for someone else to play 20?
1) Move a two to the one. Coach Roberts had unreal good fortune shuffling guards around at Pacific. In Pacific’s Big West Conference championship season, a natural two was playing at one while a natural one was playing at two, and it worked splendidly. I reckon if she tried this in Utah, she’d look at Kneepkens as a possible one, which would mean the team’s biggest offensive weapon would start with the ball in her hands, while returning senior Maxwell could resume starting at two.
2) Reel one in from the transfer portal. Pacific got a couple of outstanding transfers from Fresno State in 2014, but for an unfortunate stretch, Madison Parrish carried the team on her back. As went Madison Parrish, so went the Pacific Tigers. Utah most certainly doesn’t want that.
3) Recruit one. That would be swell for 2026, but the Utes are gunning for 2024.