OPINION | New roster challenges Utah Tech men’s basketball team

This photo was taken during the 2023 spring season game against Stephen F Austin. The men’s basketball team has replaced over half of their roster after the majority of their players graduated, welcoming 10 new players for the upcoming season. Miki Akiyama | Sun News Daily

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The Utah Tech University men’s basketball team is faced with the challenge of defying expectations after being ranked 11th in the Western Athletic Conference coach’s preseason poll.

The team has an almost entirely new roster this season after a majority of their players graduated. With 10 new players added to the program, the 11th-place ranking of the team in the poll is rational.

It is difficult to determine how this new program will perform. This is the program’s last year of its reclassification period after transitioning from Division II to Division I.

Utah Tech is only five points behind Southern Utah University and University of Texas Rio Grande Valley who tied for ninth in the preseason poll. SUU has a new program with a new head coach this season. UTRGV has a history of outperforming the preseason polls. Given these factors, the ranking of these three universities will be difficult to predict as the season unfolds.

Utah Tech will play their first game of the season away Nov. 8 against Santa Clara University.

Santa Clara finished third place in the West Coast Conference back-to-back. The Broncos had a 11-5 record in their conference last season, while the Trailblazers went 5-13 in their conference.

Comparing the universities’ stats from last season, both universities have similar numbers when it comes to shooting, which could lead to a close game. In order to win this match-up, the Trailblazers will need to focus on a strong defense.

Despite an almost completely new roster, Utah Tech has two players returning this season who proved to be key players for the Trailblazers last season. Those players are Noa Gonsalves and Tanner Christensen. Gonsalves had a career-high last season, scoring 24 points against New Mexico State, and Christensen led the team in rebounds last season.

These two players will play key roles in the Trailblazers’ game against the Broncos as well as the rest of the games this season.

In order to make for a successful season, the Trailblazers will need to develop strong team chemistry. Evaluating how each player will fit into the team is crucial for developing a plan to work with each player’s strengths and knowing where the team may be lacking.

As Utah Tech gets ready to play their first conference game against Utah Valley University Dec. 2, only time will tell if the Trailblazers will be able to outperform their 11th place spot in the poll.