Nobody wants to end its basketball season with a loss to a beatable team with its best player having his worst game. Unfortunately that's what happened to Utah Friday when it lost 58-51 to Boston College in a first-round NCAA Tournament game in Milwaukee.

Yet considering all that happened this season, the Utes have to feel very good about compiling a 24-9 record this season against all odds.

Competing with one of the youngest rosters in the nation and with the major distraction of longtime coach Rick Majerus suddenly leaving in the middle of the season, the Utes were still able to compete for the Mountain West Conference championship most of the year and actually win the MWC Tournament in Denver.

Senior Nick Jacobson carried the Utes on his back for much of the season, but the load got a little too heavy in the Utes' finale as he could only manage to make 3 of 18 shots. Still, without Jacobson, the Utes might not have been much more than a .500 team.

"We had a great season and did something no one else has done — win the conference tournament championship," said Jacobson, referring to the Utes' first-ever MWC tourney championship. "Hopefully all these guys will come back and build on it."

Jacobson finished his career as the 10th best scorer in Ute history, tied with Andre Miller with 1,618 points and as the career leader in 3-point attempts and makes and third in 3-point percentage. He is also has the season records for 3-point attempts and makes.

The only other senior on the team was center Tim Frost, who battled back problems ever since practice started in October. He missed most of the preseason practices, sat out of four non-league games and played sparingly in others. He finished the season with a 9.0 scoring average, down from a 12.8 average a year earlier when he was healthy.

Freshman Andrew Bogut lived up to his hype for the most part after leading Australia to the World Junior Championship in Greece during the summer. Bogut produced 14 double-doubles during the year and almost averaged a double-double, averaging 12.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

Sophomore Tim Drisdom started at point guard for the second straight year and became more steady as the year progressed, while Richard Chaney averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds as the starting small forward.

Freshman Justin Hawkins was the Utes' top reserve and showed potential to be a key player in the future with his tough play in the middle, while Bryant Markson showed flashes in a reserve role.

After starting off the season with a couple of crushing losses in New York at the Preseason NIT, the Utes settled down and ran off 12 wins in 13 games to improve to 15-3. Then after losing consecutive games at New Mexico and Air Force, Majerus shocked everyone by abruptly quitting, citing health issues.

Assistant coach Kerry Rupp took over for Majerus and just four days later, the Utes had to take on archrival BYU at home. The Utes came out flat, and after falling behind by 15 points at halftime, they made a terrific second-half comeback and won 64-56.

That propelled them to wins in their next three games, but a loss to last-place Wyoming set them back and they lost three of four games before bouncing back to win the regular-season finale at San Diego State.

In the MWC Tournament, the Utes showed their resolve by winning three straight games that went down to the final minute, over San Diego State, BYU and UNLV, the latter on Jacobson's 3-point shot with 1.8 seconds left.

After Friday's loss the big questions were, who will be the next Ute coach, and will most of the underclassmen return for next year. Several players came to Utah because they wanted to play for Majerus, but most said they plan to return.

The biggest question mark is Bogut, who had reported offers of $2 million to play in Europe this year that he turned down.

After Friday's game he said "I'm 100 percent sure I want to come back," but also said his decision to return would hinge on several factors, including who the Utes choose for their next coach.

Drisdom is planning to return. As a close friend of the big Australian, who spent Christmas with Drisdom in southern California, he hopes Bogut will be back also.

"Sure I love him — I love all my teammates," said Drisdom.

"Everybody is important. I hope everyone comes back."

Chaney, Markson and Hawkins are expected to return along with 6-11 center Chris Jackson, who had surgery on his back last month and expects to be ready for next season. However, backup point guard Josh Olsen said he plans to leave on an LDS mission soon after the semester ends in May.

Jonas Langvad will be a sophomore next year, but after playing in only eight games all year year, it is not known if he plans to return from Denmark. Also the status of Stefan Zimmerman, a 6-9 freshman from American Fork who redshirted this year, is up in the air.

Zimmerman, who was criticized by Majerus early in the season for not coming to fall practice in shape, was suspended indefinitely by the Utes last week. It may be up to the new coach whether or not he'll be back.

Because of NCAA scholarship rules, the Utes won't be able to replace any players who decide not to return. Schools are only allowed to give eight scholarships in two years, and after signing five players last year, signed two players last fall, Jake Schmidt, a 6-7 250-pound forward from Wyoming, and Jermaine Calvin, a 5-8 guard from Arizona. The Utes can only sign one more player this spring, plus the Utes will be limited to one fewer scholarship over the next three years because of sanctions of the NCAA for rules violations from two years ago.

As for a new coach, that should be decided sometime in the next three weeks perhaps as early as later this week. Rupp is a possible candidate, but regardless of what happens, he had a great half-season as Ute coach.

"I'm proud of my guys and what they've been through this year," said Rupp. "They've had a fantastic year and they showed how tough they were. We've had two great seniors who left big footprints for the younger guys. I'm proud to be the coach and take these guys to the NCAAs, they're an incredible group of guys."


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