Fear of the unknown
You'd think Utah's dismissal of leading scorer Josh Watkins would be a good thing for the Arizona Wildcats tonight.
But that was the common thought when UA found out before facing UCLA on Jan. 5 that big man Josh Smith would not play because of a concussion.
Arizona wound up losing anyway, 65-58, when twin towers Travis and David Wear combined for 34 points in Smith's absence.
"Like coach (Miller) said with Josh Smith, it's an opportunity for another player to step up," said UA assistant coach Book Richardson, who is scouting the Utes. "It's tough when you prepare for something and it doesn't go that way. We worry because if Josh Watkins was an engine, we don't know what goes on now. You never know."
When Watkins was suspended for a game earlier this season, Utah freshman Kareem Storey started in his place and responded with 10 points, six assists and no turnovers.
"He tries awfully hard, he's got a big heart and competes," Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak said in the Salt Lake Tribune of Storey after the Fullerton game, "but as with a lot of freshman, still has some things to figure out."
Nine players left team
To understand why Utah lost eight straight games in the nonconference season and was drubbed by 40 at Colorado in its first ever Pac-12 game, it might help to go back to Larry Krystkowiak's introductory news conference after he was named the Utes' coach last spring.
Right after the news conference, leading scorer Will Clyburn asked for a transfer. And before long, mission returnee Drew Sharp took off for rival BYU after a loophole in Sharp's signing was found that made him a free man.
"I wanted to have an opportunity for him to come back from the mission and spend some time with him," Krystkowiak said last summer.
Didn't happen. Krystkowiak also tried to talk Clyburn into sticking around, but he bolted for Iowa State.
In all, nine Utah players with eligibility remaining left the Utes.
But since the Colorado loss, Utah has played respectably in the conference, aside from a blowout loss at first-place California. The Utes have whittled down their rotation to seven players, which may have helped.
"We turned a little more of a corner until the Cal game," Krystkowiak said. "There's not a lot to be taken from a moral victory … one of the elements is we've been playing seven guys here as of late."
Less than 48 hours after he hit five three-pointers in the second half against Oregon State last Thursday, Brendon Lavender had the ball and a decent look from behind the line to win the game against Oregon.
"Personally, I am disappointed in myself because I had a really good look," Lavender said. "But with those moments, you live and you learn. That time is going to come again. And whether I make the next one or I don't, I'm still learning. There's going to be a chance where I do succeed."
After UA forward Kevin Parrom was shot twice last September, coach Sean Miller said he was "fortunate to be alive."
That's the perspective he has when noting that Parrom's progression has been so slow that a redshirt season may have been warranted.
"Kevin hasn't contributed much to this year's team," Miller said. "He's gone through an awful lot. … But we're in the middle of January and trying to get the most out of him that we can, which isn't much to this point.
Miller was asked if it has been therapeutic for Parrom to at least be playing with the Wildcats. Parrom also lost his mother to cancer last fall.
"I don't know if anyone can really walk in his shoes," he said. "It's so difficult the tragedies he's worked with. It's difficult on him. In hindsight, none of us had a crystal ball, but a redshirt, we could have made the argument, would have served him well."
The last time the Wildcats' local television team of Dave Sitton and Corey Williams called both games of a UA conference road weekend, the Wildcats swept both games in the Bay area - including a triple-overtime win at California.
Two years ago, they called MoMo Jones' buzzer-beater to win the game at Stanford.
This weekend, Sitton and Williams will be making another rare road doubleheader this weekend at Utah and Colorado since neither game was picked up by national television.
While that means the game will be restricted to KWBA and Fox Sports Arizona coverage, it might not hurt the Wildcats.
No Rocky Mountain High
Although Colorado is a perfect 3-0 at home in conference play this season - the Buffs are 27-3 overall at the Coors Event Center since Tad Boyle took over last season - they received a rude awakening on their first Pac-12 road trip last weekend.
After losing to California by seven, the Buffs went across the Bay and were destroyed by Stanford 84-64. Now they're 3-2 and, Boyle said after the Stanford game, a "mediocre" team.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Boyle said. "We're obviously not happy with the results. … Stanford played an unbelievable basketball game."
Arizona at Utah, 6:30 p.m. today, Ch 58 and FSAZ, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
He said it …
"Josh Watkins is such a great player and he can dominate a game with his scoring and passing. He's big and physical and can get to the basket. He's a guy you really have to key on. They're a much better team now than they were even two weeks ago. If they can control tempo, they do have some decent size."
Book Richardson, Arizona assistant coach who scouted the Utes
Arizona at Colorado, 4 p.m. Saturday, Ch 58 and FSAZ, 1290-AM, 107.5-FM
He said it …
"They're very similar to us defensively because they play man-to-man and they try to shrink the floor, and they play good help defense. Where Washington will deny and pressure you, Colorado and us shade more toward defending the dribble. Colorado really doesn't jump into passing lanes. They have athletes at the four and the five - they're long and great position defenders. (André) Roberson is special: He blocks, rebounds and gets steals. He's just very quick. He's their best guy on that end of the floor."
James Whitford, Arizona associate head coach who scouted the Buffaloes