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Utah Game Preview/Open Thread

The Huskies look to rebound against a struggling Utah team

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Southern California Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Thursday, 1/18/18

Tip-Off Time: 7:00pm PST

TV: Pac-12 Network

Radio: KOMO 1000

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Betting Line: Utah -7

Utah 2017-18 Statistics:

Record: 10-7 (2-4)

Points For per Game: 74.9 ppg (129th)

Points Against per Game: 71.1 ppg (122nd)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 110.2 (72nd)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 100.5 (110th)

Strength of Schedule: 22nd

Utah Key Players:

C- Tyler Rawson, Sr. 6’10, 225: 10.6ppg, 6.3rpg, 3.8apg, 45.5% FG, 79.2% FT, 36% 3pt

Rawson is both one of the best shooting big men in the conference and probably the best passing big man in the conference. His assist rate is better than any player on the Husky roster. Expect Utah to stick him in the middle of the zone as he’s comfortable shooting over length and finding the lurking big man under the basket if Timmins or Dickerson contests.

F- David Collette, Sr. 6’10, 225: 13.7ppg, 4.7rpg, 0.9apg, 59.3% FG, 76.1% FT

Collette has a very similar game to Noah Dickerson except he’s not quite the rebounder that Noah is. He’s the only Utes starter who’s not a threat from outside so expect him to play under the basket waiting for a feed off a drive.

F- Donnie Tillman, Fr. 6’7, 225: 10.2ppg, 6.0rpg, 0.8apg, 51.3% FG, 86.7% FT, 40% 3pt

Tillman has missed 6 of the last 8 games with a foot injury but claims to be back to full health. He’s the only major freshman contributor for the Utes and has put up average or better numbers in basically every category but assists. Expect him to be a very good 4 year player for Utah.

G- Sedrick Barefield, Jr. 6’2, 190: 10.9ppg, 2.1rpg, 2.7apg, 34.2% FG, 90.7% FT, 28% 3pt

It’s kind of stunning to see someone shooting 90%+ from the free throw line and below 35% from the field. He shot nearly 40% from deep last season so the Huskies have to hope he doesn’t break out of his slump tonight.

G- Justin Bibbins, Sr. 5’8, 150: 13.9ppg, 2.9rpg, 4.7apg, 49.7% FG, 84.9% FT, 47.4% 3pt

Bibbins has been fantastic as a grad transfer from Long Beach State. He’s the primary ball handler but has taken almost 2/3rds of his shots from beyond the arc so that’s where he’s most dangerous. He scored 17 points but with 7 turnovers playing the Huskies in the NIT two years ago in a 107-102 loss for the 49ers.

The Outlook

This is a really difficult game to predict. There are a number of trends that all point in conflicting directions. We’ll start with this. Utah has lost 4 games in a row in the Pac-12. That’s not good given how bad the conference is. However, those games were at the L.A schools and home for the Arizona schools which is basically the most difficult 4-game stretch you can get this year. They’re 3-7 against the KenPom top-100 and 7-0 against teams outside of it (UW is #114 right now).

There’s also the troubling trend of Utah’s carving up of the UW defense recently. Thanks to Ed Strong for the numbers. Utah has shot better than 55% from the field and better than 47.5% from three in each of the last three meetings against the Huskies. UW’s defense is much improved over the last 2 years and this will be the worst Utah team during that stretch but the Utes’ brand of basketball with lots of cuts, screens, and drive and kicks has given the Huskies problems in the past.

But let’s talk specifics. Utah’s biggest strength as always is their inside game. As just mentioned, they do a great job of luring a big man away from the basket and darting in on cuts for open layups. Last season they were 4th in 2pt%. This year, it’s 50th which is actually just behind Washington. It’s still a strength but they aren’t nearly as dominant now. The big area of concern is free throw shooting as they shoot 77% from the line. Washington has to stay out of foul trouble or the Utes will make them pay.

It’s helpful that the biggest weakness for Utah is offensive rebounding which coincides with Washington’s largest defensive problem. Whichever team can turn that around will likely hold an edge. The Utah defense doesn’t force many turnovers so if Washington just doesn’t throw it away then there’s a chance for them to win the possession battle. However, Utah’s strength is defending post-ups (they’re in the 96th percentile in points per possession on those plays) which does not bode well for an offense run through Noah Dickerson in the post.

This Utah team is definitely beatable but a Washington win would definitely qualify as an upset. The mountain road trip has felled many a team better than the Huskies. Tyler Rawson is the key to this game. He has the potential to destroy the Dawgs if he can get the ball at the free throw line. If Washington contains him or gets him in foul trouble then they have a shot. I can’t quite get there yet.


Washington Huskies- 71, Utah Utes- 80


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