Team preview: Utah

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

After polar opposite seasons for Ray Giacoletti, he enters his third season at Utah with at least one aspect shored up. This is his team -- finally. No longer in the shadow of Rick Majerus, Giacoletti can concern himself with rebuilding a program one season removed from the Sweet 16 but only months removed from its first losing conference season since 1993-94.

Giacoletti's Utah career has indeed run the gamut. In 2004, after convincing Andrew Bogut's family that he should stay in college one more season, Giacoletti led the Utes to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

Then there was last year, or better put, Life Without Bogut. The No. 1 pick in the 2005 NBA draft was apparently worth 15 wins to the Utes; they won 29 in his final season, 14 a year ago.

"I don't think what people had fully understood, was that without Andrew and Marc [Jackson], we were back to square one," Giacoletti said.

This cold, hard truth was no more evident than at KeyArena on Dec. 22 in Seattle. Utah had just been embarrassed by a mediocre Washington State squad (that led by 25 at halftime), and Giacoletti let the Utes have it in the locker room.

When he came out to address the media after what seemed an eternity, it was as if Giacoletti had been in solitary confinement for days. Trying to make sense of the debacle, Giacoletti's facial expressions and answers seemed like someone confused and lost -- and for good reason.

"There are too many holes, it's like trying to stick a finger in the dike," the dazed Giacoletti said. "Until you have some fight in you and some passion, it doesn't matter what you do. Right now we don't."

Losing by 27 to Washington State made losing by 30 to Arizona five days earlier seem impressive. That's how far the Utes had fallen.

The most consecutive games Utah won the rest of the season were two -- twice, as the Utes had five- and four-game losing streaks before upsetting third-seeded BYU in the MWC Tournament quarterfinals.

"Last season was kind of like starting over," Giacoletti said. "It takes time with anyone. It was kind of what I expected."

Unfortunately, Bryant Markson (13.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.4 spg), the only starter at season's end that isn't back, had to endure this nightmare.