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Among familiar opponents, there are few secrets.
For instance, Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak knows Colorado will challenge on the boards as much as any opponent his team has faced. He knows Xavier Johnson will give the Utes problems in the lane, that George King will hit tough shots, and the Buffaloes defense will force Utah into uncomfortable positions.
He knows these things, but communicating it to his players most of whom have never played a Pac-12 game is a different challenge.
"For guys who haven't experienced it, it's kind of like having kids," he said after Friday's practice. "You've got to go through it to know what everybody was talking about."
Utah (9-3) has already taken some lumps in nonconference play, most recently falling on the first night against San Francisco in the Diamond Head Classic tournament before closing out with victories over Hawaii and Stephen F. Austin.
That trip to Hawaii saw Utah again incomplete: Junior forward Kyle Kuzma rolled his ankle on the first offensive possession of the first game, contributing to what Krystkowiak called "shock value." While he said he would still accept a 2-1 record out of the tournament, what became clear to him is that his team has a long way to go, particularly in playing defense and preventing turnovers.
"It wasn't pretty, certainly," he said. "The last three or four days we've been touching base on all those details. Hopefully we start firing on all cylinders once conference play starts."
Those hopes, for a large part, hinge on Kuzma's right ankle. He took a limited role in Utah's practice on Friday, wearing a brace. With 14.4 ppg, 10.2 rpg and 3.2 apg, his absence robbed the Utes of their most versatile playmaker.
Planning to help Utah make a run to the tournament title, Kuzma instead found himself in a boot and on crutches, watching helplessly in the initial 89-86 loss to the Dons. By Christmas, he was off the crutches and walking a bit without his boot.
"Getting better every day, really," he said of the ankle. "It's still sore and tender. Just progress some days, and some days it doesn't feel good at all."
The Utes benefited greatly from their new players: David Collette scored in double figures in each game, while Sedrick Barefield erupted for 35 points against San Francisco before hitting some foul trouble in later games.
Still, Utah finds itself near the bottom of some concerning statistics: With 15.3 turnovers per game, the Utes rank No. 302 nationally. Shooting (32.6 percent, No. 262) and defending 3-pointers (35.4 percent, No. 219) also haven't been so hot.
The series with Colorado has been one of Utah's most exciting, particularly in the last two years: Utah won in Boulder in January when Lorenzo Bonam hit a game-winning layup seconds before the final buzzer, and the Utes went on a 19-0 run at the Huntsman Center to erase a 15-point deficit on Senior Night in March.
The Buffaloes beat the teams' only common opponent so far, Xavier, at the Coors Events Center days before the Utes lost to the Musketeers in Cincinnati. Colorado ranks No. 48 in KenPom's defensive efficiency, and allows opponents to shoot only 38.3 percent from the field.
"We gotta grow quick, be more mature and lock in, because I've told these guys these games are a whole different demon," Kuzma said. "Colorado's one of my favorite teams to play in the Pac. We've just got to put our hard hats on and get ready for 40 minutes of that."
Colorado at Utah
P Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
TV • ESPNU