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It's a different Runnin' Utes team already

SALT LAKE CITY — Maybe it was just the competition talking, but the Utes on Saturday looked ridiculously deep and madly talented. That hasn’t been the case thus far.

It just happened that two new Utah players and Prairie View A&M appeared on the same night.

A 92-60 victory over a two-win team doesn’t mean much overall for the Utes. Utah could still end up meeting expectations in conference play. But expectations say they will finish eighth among Pac-12 teams this year. Still, this isn’t the same roster it was in October when the media voted in its preseason poll, way back B.C. — Before Collette. Before Barefield, too.

The long-awaited arrival of David Collette and Sedrick Barefield was all coach Larry Krystkowiak could have hoped. The game was over before the announcer said, “Good afternoon, and welcome to the Jon M. Huntsman Center!”

Soon the Utes will move on to conference play, which will prove far more challenging than a team from the Texas hinterlands. At the same time, adding two starter-level players can’t hurt. It brings the Utes from wishful to hopeful in one shot. Depth in both the front and backcourts? Double-check.

Thus the Utes mistreated the poor Prairie View Panthers. But they weren’t being cruel. Krystkowiak was just clearing the stable. The Utes shot 70 percent for much of the game and humiliated PVAMU on the glass, 52-25. In transition they ran the Panthers up the tunnel.

Collette, a transfer from Utah State, and Barefield, a Southern Methodist transfer, didn’t wait around. Collette scored on his first three shot attempts, all layups. Barefield’s first shot was an air ball. But his next try was a 3-pointer from the elbow. By halftime Collette was 3 for 3 from the field, Barefield 4 for 7, with three treys.

They finished with 11 and 18 points, respectively.

Krystkowiak predicted both the aforementioned players would make a big difference, but not everyone bought the pitch last fall.

“They’re two dynamic players,” Krystkowiak said on Saturday.

With Collette starting, Utah simply wore PVAMU out. Lacking anyone taller than 6-feet-9, Prairie View saw the Utes post one big man after another: Collette, Tyler Rawson, Jayce Johnson and Kyle Kuzma. Among them they shot 19 for 29.

The Panthers could do little about guards JoJo Zamora, Devon Daniels, Lorenzo Bonam and Barefield, either.

This was a transitional week for the Utes. Even as one player was leaving, others were coming through the door. It’s starting to look like a factory during shift change. On Tuesday junior guard Tim Coleman said he is transferring, reportedly to play at Arkansas-Fort Smith. He didn’t play a minute for the Utes before moving on. That brings to seven the number of players leaving since late 2015.

At the same time, the game marked the official introduction of Collette and Barefield. Collette was third-team all-Mountain West; Barefield played 16 minutes at SMU before transferring.

“I know there's been a lot discussion about transfer issues,” Krystkowiak said on Saturday, “and it’s certainly not anything we’re proud of having guys leaving, but … I can’t focus any more attention on what we don’t have. Sometimes change is good for some guys. We’re happy with who we have and it doesn’t seem to be any harm.”

With or without Barefield and Collette, the Utes weren’t in much danger on Saturday. If they wanted a live scrimmage, this was it. But if they sought to see how good they’ll be in the Pac-12, hold that thought. Prairie View’s losses (2-10) have mostly been horrific: 20 to Oregon State, 38 to Saint Mary’s, 45 to Wisconsin, 44 to Houston, 19 to Kansas State and 32 to Utah.

But give the Panthers an A for ambition; they play 19 road games this season.

As for the 7-2 Utes, their schedule has revealed little. Wins have been against smaller programs and losses were to Big East teams. Utah next plays in a tournament in Hawaii before opening conference play Jan. 1. All that can be drawn from Saturday’s game is that PVAMU doesn’t belong in the big leagues. And that the Utes are a far better team than they were 24 hours earlier.

It doesn’t take an unobstructed prairie view to see that.