SALT LAKE CITY — Coming off an up-and-down season with a young roster, the Utah men’s basketball team was picked to finish eighth in the preseason media poll released Thursday.
The preseason projection is one spot higher than last season’s spot at ninth for a team that featured mostly freshmen and sophomore talent. Utah, which earned 131 points, is sandwiched in the poll by No. 7 Colorado (149 points) and No. 9 Washington (85 points).
Media voted UCLA as its favorite with 251 points and nine out of the 23 possible first-place votes, though the Bruins are separated by just 10 points between Arizona State (246 points) and Oregon (241 points). The Sun Devils received five first-place votes, while the Ducks received seven as the next-highest team, despite Oregon finishing in third overall.
Behind Oregon, the poll rounded out with Stanford, Arizona, USC, Colorado, Utah, Washington, California, Washington State and Oregon State. Stanford and USC each earned one first-place vote.
Last season, Utah featured one of the youngest teams in the country and finished with a 16-15 record and an early exit in the Pac-12 Tournament after Oregon State hit a last-second shot to claim a 71-69 victory in the opening round. The tournament, however, was canceled shortly after the game due to the coronavirus pandemic that started in the United States.
Utah brings back almost all its starting lineup from last year, headlined by junior forward Timmy Allen and sophomore guard Rylan Jones. The two combined for 26.9 points per game last season and are expected to anchor the team’s scoring production, though Alfonso Plummer, who came on late last season, could provide a 3-point threat.
Allen on Thursday was also named to the conference’s preseason first team as one of 10 players named to the honor. Allen is the only Utah player on one of the two all-conference teams.
Utah is set to open up its season in late November, though the official schedule has not been publicly released. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak, however, told ESPN 700 that games are expected to be played at the Huntsman Center on Nov. 25 and Nov. 27. The conference slate, which will feature a 20-game schedule, will open sometime between Dec. 30 and Jan. 3.
Utah’s schedule, which does not have official dates set, is as follows:
Dec. 30 – Jan. 3: UCLA and USC
Jan. 6 – 10: Oregon and Oregon State
Jan. 13 – 17: California and Stanford
Jan. 20 – 24: Washington and Washington State
Jan. 27 – 31: Colorado
Feb. 3 – 7: Arizona and Arizona State
Feb. 10 – 14: California and Stanford
Feb. 17 – 21: Oregon and Oregon State
Feb. 24 – 28: UCLA and USC
March 6 – 7: Colorado