Washington Huskies Pac-12 home opener: previewing the match up vs. Utah

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Washington is coming off of a strong showing last week against the Arizona schools. How does their showdown versus the Runnin' Utes of Utah look?

What you need to know:

Game: Utah Runnin' Utes at Washington Huskies
Time 8 PT Wednesday, January 8
TV/Radio Pac-12 Networks, 950 KJR or online stream through Huskies All-Access
Utah record 2013-14: 12-2  2012-13: 15-18

The Coach: Larry Krystkowiak:

Krystkowiak played ten years in the NBA after playing at the University of Montana. During his ten-year NBA career, he played for six teams, including the Chicago Bulls during the season Michael Jordan returned from his foray into professional baseball. As soon as Krystkowiak retired from the NBA, he turned to coaching. He has been an assistant and head coach at various universities and on NBA teams. He served as an assistant and later head coach of the Montana Grizzlies, and the same with the Milwaukee Bucks. He has two career NCAA Tourney appearances as a head coach, going 1-2.

Career record as head coach in NCAA, at Utah: 79-65, 33-45

Scouting Report Dots:

  • Washington leads in the all-time series versus Utah 7-6, but there is obviously a lot to be written on that, considering Utah's recent joining of the Pac-12. Under Romar, UW is leading the series 3-1.

  • Utah does have a shiny 12-2 record, but statsheet.com rates their strength of schedule as 327th in the nation. Some of that record is padding against overmatched competition, but as seen in them taking Oregon to the wire last week, they do have ability.

  • The Utes have left the comforts of Jon M. Huntsman Center exactly one time. They traveled to Boise State to take on the Broncos in TACO BELL ARENA. That is awesome. I had no idea that Taco Bell had purchased the naming rights to Boise State's home stadium. This is one of the greatest things I have ever discovered during my time researching opposing basketball teams. You are what you eat, and if my high school diet was any indication, I am approximately 50 percent Taco Bell.

    Anyways, Utah has beefed up their schedule. One of their two losses came in Taco Bell Arena, the other came against the Oregon Ducks. Oregon was toppled in Boulder, but is still the 17th team in the country. It is impressive nonetheless to have stuck with the Ducks. We will see who the true Utah Utes are this season once they get deeper into conference play.

  • Utah is difficult to stop offensively, and likes to get out and run. They do a great job of getting good looks, and are currently first in the country in field goal percentage at 53.4 percent. Their Offensive Efficiency (points per possession) is first in the country. Keep in mind that Statsheet (my favorite NCAA stats site) doesn't have a page for nearly half of Utah's opponents.

  • Something was brought to my attention on Twitter by one of our members, AndersJorstad. He told me that Utah has struggled quite a bit on the road the past several years. I decided to look back at their road record for the past two seasons when Krystkowiak was hired.

    In the 2011-12 season, Utah had exactly zero road wins. They won three conference games all season, obviously all of them at home. Okay, that can be expected out of a team that is only able to claw out three victories over the course of a season.

    In 2012-13 Utah went 5-13 inside the conference. At home, they went 4-5. On the road they went 1-8. Their lone victory was against Washington. Now, I don't know how much of that is standard home-away variation and how much of that is them being just a bad team. I have to lean that it is a bit of both, which isn't really leaning but you get the point. 

    Utah hasn't been good at home by any means. They have been a disaster on the road.

Players to watch:

  • Delon Wright: A 6-5 junior guard, Wright is the leading minutes-getter among the Utes, although it is a close battle with the second Player to Watch* on the Utes. Wright has been the main ball-distributor, leading the Utes in assist rate. He impacts the game in every which way. He can score via drive, has a decent jump shot, can distribute and is strong on the defensive end. He has active hands to help him play passing lanes to get steals and is also a decent shot-blocker as well.

    *Ooooohhh suspense

  • Jordan Loveridge: A 6-6 sophomore forward, Loveridge is the reason Utah was able to take the Ducks to the wire. Though he wasn't the most effecient from the field (nobody was that game, it was a game played at a fast pace with good defense), he led all scorers with 21 points, and played 43 minutes, including overtime.

    He is another player who can impact the game in a variety of ways. He puts up a lot of shots. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don't. He embraces the volume shooter role. Whether he is a shooter, driver or something else, his job is to get the ball in the bucket. Don't let Loveridge get to the foul line, he shoots over 80% from the stripe.

    He is similar to Mike Anderson in the way that he is a smaller guy who likes to get dirty down low and grab boards. He is averaging nearly nine per game from his forward position.

The Huskies win if...

If they continue to play like they did last week, Washington will create problems for Utah, but for all we know, the Oregon (and BYU) game was a precursor that the Utes will be dangerous. Washington needs to control the boards. Utah is another undersized team, and they compensate for their size by going at a blistering pace, which they are very good at.

I feel that Perris Blackwell will be key scoring inside, and getting the little bit of depth the Utes have inside in foul trouble could ensure victory for the Dawgs. Of course, keeping Loveridge from having a monster game also has to be a priority, because if he is able to get hot, watch out, he can light a team up.

Closing Comment:

Last week was fun, this week should be fun as well, hosting two teams that have the potential to challenge for top-three in the conference. Get ready for an up-and-down game, because Utah is going to do their best to make the game that way. Look to see a lot of Desmond Simmons, and hopefully Shawn Kemp Jr., as rotating big men will be required in a game that will see the ball going end-to-end rapidly.

Follow Ben on Twitter, he only bites Cougs (Except Jeff Nusser, that guy is cool).

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