As if the transition from a mid-major to a power conference is not challenging enough, Utah also decided to change head coaches this offseason which resulted in four key contributors from last season transferring out of the program.
Welcome to the Pac-12.
New head coach Larry Krystowiak takes over for Jim Boylen, who was fired after four seasons, and inherits a team that has experienced a massive offseason overhaul. The Utes lose five of their top six scorers from last year, four of whom chose to transfer after the coaching change was made.
Point guard Josh Watkins is the lone returning player from that group. After transferring in from Howard Junior College, Watkins led the Utes in assists last season and finished second in scoring. He will be asked to carry the load for a relatively young Utah team.
Chris Hines is the only other wing player back from last year's team and should see a significant bump in minutes. Freshman small forward George Matthews is a talented scorer and should be a major contributor right away. Fellow freshman Anthony Odunsi, and JUCO transfers Dijon Farr and Cedric Martin will likely battle for minutes off the bench while freshman Kareem Storey will be groomed as the heir apparent to Watkins at the point.
The Utes will have size inside with 7-3 David Foster and 7-0 Jason Washburn. Neither big is very athletic or possesses a great skill level, but they should at least provide Krystowiak with a unique tandem of seven-footers who can protect the rim and rebound on the defensive end. Junior college transfer Javon Dawson is a load but somewhat undersized power forward who will likely be an important piece of the rotation.
With nine of the 13 players on the roster being newcomers, Krystowiak already has his hands full. Add in a more competitive conference from top to bottom, and the Utes face a steep, uphill climb if they hope to return to the winning ways of the Rick Majerus days.
You will also notice that Utah State is not on the Utes' schedule this season. It will mark the first time since the 1944-45 season that the two in-state rivals will not meet.
Player to Watch: Jay Watkins, PG
As the point guard and team's best player, Watkins will serve double duty for the Utes; setting the table on the offensive end while also being the team's go-to scorer. "Jiggy" brought stability to the point guard position last season despite a 3.5/3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio. He will have to improve his shot selection and decision-making though if Utah has any hopes of not winding up in the cellar of the Pac-12.