3 observations from Night with the Runnin' Utes

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SALT LAKE CITY — The 2016 version of Night with the Runnin' Utes, an evening of festivities and a scrimmage with this year's University of Utah men's basketball team, was home to a host of new faces, and a few old faces too.

The red team beat the white team 72-63, and Kyle Kuzma, playing for the white team, led all scorers with 20 points. Newcomers David Collette and Sedrick Barefield, playing for the red team, added 16 and 13 points collectively. The halftime show was an opportunity to honor former Ute legends such as Keith Van Horn, Jeff Judkins, Britton Johnsen and Johnny Bryant.

Here are my instant observations from tonight's inter-squad scrimmage:

New faces ready to contribute

Kuzma was the game's leading scorer, and Lorenzo Bonam looked solid, but there are a few newcomers ready to shine. Although transfers Sedrick Barefield (Southern Methodist University) and David Collette (Utah State) won't be available until mid-December per NCAA rules, the two were arguably the game's co-MVPs.

Barefield was particularly impressive. A sophomore this year, the transfer shot the ball really well, showcasing an all-around shooting touch as a crafty finisher, great range on his jump shot, and some incredible passing. Head coach Larry Krystkowiak and the Utes may very well have found a diamond in the rough with Barefield.

Other promising new players included Tyler Rawson, formerly of Salt Lake Community College, freshmen Devon Daniels and Jayce Johnson, Yuba College transfer JoJo Zamora, and, while not necessarily new, guard Parker Van Dyke, back from an LDS mission.

The Utes are ready to run

They call them the Runnin' Utes, but throughout Krystkowiak's career, the Utes have been predominantly a half-court team. This year, the team is running hard off of every miss and defensive rebound, trying to get easy shots early in the clock. Virtually any member of team was allowed to take the ball up the floor after a rebound, the only exception being centers like Johnson or newcomer Jakub Jokl.

Getting up the floor early seems like a great strategy. With floor-spacing 3-point shooters like Brandon Taylor and Jordan Loveridge now departed, getting quality shots and space to operate for marquee guys like Bonam or Kuzma will be tougher than years past, and getting the ball up the floor should help the Utes utilize mismatches and give them more possessions, something last year’s team really struggled with, despite all its success.

Kuzma and Bonam need to step up

This year's team is the youngest and least-experienced of the past few seasons. Only four holdovers from last year remain: Kuzma, Bonam, Gabe Bealer and Jake Connor. With that said, it's going to be critical that the Utes get quality performances from their two undisputed leaders in Kuzma and Bonam.

Kuzma showcased an improved floor game, making the smart play and the fantastic one. At times last season, there were bursts from him, but just bursts. Now, he looks not only more prepared, but in improved physical shape.

Bonam, already a really impressive athlete, looks even stronger and more agile this season. He appears to have put on some muscle, which should help him down the stretch of a grueling Pac-12 schedule.

For Utah to have any kind of shot at making it to the tournament this season, it's likely going to revolve around the success of its two leaders.

Stephen Lindsey is a student at the University of Utah currently working as an intern with KSL.com in Salt Lake City. Contact him at th3sl3@gmail.com or interact via his Twitter handle, @slthe3


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