Pac-12's new guys couldn't be more different

2011-11-07T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:43:12Z Pac-12's new guys couldn't be more differentPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 07, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Carlon Brown left one of Utah's worst teams for one of Colorado's best.

When the California-bred guard decided to transfer from Salt Lake City in 2010, he departed a historically bad squad, at least by Utah's lofty standards. Since 1936, only five Utes teams had posted a worse winning percentage than the squad's 45.2 percent.

He chose to transfer to Colorado, which six weeks later agreed to move, along with Utah, to the Pac-12, starting this season.

Brown sat on the bench for the Buffaloes last year, due to transfer rules, and watched his new teammates win a school-record 24 games.

Good move.

"I would have been more frustrated," he said, "if I had stayed my senior year at Utah and finished it on a down year."

Brown found the two schools much the same way the rest of the Pac-12 will this year.

Colorado, historically a basketball non-factor, figures to finish higher in the league than, if no one else, the Utes.

Of the Pac-12's two new basketball teams, Utah has been historically far more relevant.

Few teams in the West can match the program's credentials:

• Over the past 20 years, only Kansas has won more conference titles than Utah's 12. Colorado hasn't won one since 1969, and has won only nine since 1924.

• The Utes have won 65.1 percent of their games all-time, compared with Colorado's 51.1.

• Utah ranks in the NCAA's top 15 all-time in wins and winning percentage. The school won a national title in 1944, finished second in 1998 and fourth twice.

The Pac-12's first impression of Utah won't be, necessarily, historically accurate.

"For five months in the wintertime, what you need to be involved with is typically basketball," said first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak, a one-time coach of the Milwaukee Bucks who spent last season as a New Jersey Nets assistant. "It's always been a basketball state in that regard."

Contributing factors include the popularity of the NBA's Jazz, Salt Lake City's dominant sports franchise, and the popularity of Mormon Church-run basketball gyms.

"There's just a rich tradition, and players and fans are a part of it," said 7-foot-3-inch center David Foster, who is playing for his third different coach at Utah. "Just look back at the (coach Rick) Majerus era and all the championships and games that they won, and all the different players that have come out of Utah."

The Buffaloes, meanwhile, are starting their own tradition.

CU lost star shooting guard Alec Burks to the first round of the NBA draft. He averaged 20.5 points a game last season.

But excitement is at an apex: Last year, CU drew more fans, 140,284, than at any point in its history. It set a school record with five sellouts.

"That was something that was so special here, and it hasn't been that way here a lot," said second-year coach Tad Boyle, a Greeley, Colo., native who was last at Northern Colorado. Attendance "was spotty. They've had some good teams, but they haven't had great success."

Boyle said a basketball renaissance is "a byproduct of commitment" by the school. In August, it opened a $10.8 million practice facility for its basketball and volleyball programs.

"Now we have a place to bring recruits into, to have our players come to when they want to," Boyle said.

Transfer Brown, who averaged 8.7 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in three years at Utah, said that "everybody's expecting big things from the basketball team" in Boulder.

That might not be the case in Utah - at least this year, on a team with only four returners.

Krystkowiak said his goal, in the short term, is to finish in the top half of the league - "I'm not talking about winning the thing," he said - and to make the NCAA tournament.

He'll face long odds in his new league, at least this season.

"I know a lot of people are saying, 'Do you want to set a foundation and not worry about winning?' " Foster said. "But that shouldn't be the case.

"We should set the foundation by winning."

How they stack up

Utah and Colorado have played basketball in the same region for more than 100 years, but they couldn't be more different. Utah is one of the more dominant teams in the West, even if against weaker conference competition.

Here's a tale of the tape:

Category Utah Colorado

Years played 103 110

Record 1,664-893 1,152-1,102

Winning percentage 65.1 51.1

Last league title 2009 1969

Conference titles 29 22

NCAA tournament berths 27 10

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