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Utah Utes Open Thread

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The Huskies play their 1st conference road game and their 1st game away from Hec-Ed in almost a month

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Arizona State Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Essentials

Date: Thursday, 1/10/19

Tip-Off Time: 7:00 pm PT

TV: FS1

Streaming: Foxsportsgo.com

Radio: KOMO 1000 AM/97.7 FM and TuneIn

Location: Salt Lake City, Utah

Betting Line: Washington -2

Utah 2018-19 Statistics:

Record: 7-7

Points For per Game: 75.6 (103rd)

Points Against per Game: 74.6 (218th)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 112.4 (31st)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 108.1 (287th)

Strength of Schedule: +3.32 (66th)

Utah Key Players:

C-Jayce Johnson, Jr. 7’0, 235: 5.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 0.9 bpg, 61.4% FG, 44.8% FT

Johnson hasn’t lived up to lofty expectations coming into college but has been solid as a essentially a rich man’s Sam Timmins. He can score if he gets the ball next to the basket and is a great rebounder but can’t guard in space at all and not all that well at the rim either. He also fouls way too much which is why he’s only playing 17 minutes per game and that could be a problem for Utah if UW can get Noah Dickerson the ball early and often.

F- Donnie Tillman, So. 6’7, 225: 11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 47.6% FG, 37.7% 3pt, 84.3% FT

Tillman was was one of my picks for breakout player in the conference and he has lived up to that billing. His efficiency on offense has been phenomenal and he’s a plus in just about every aspect on that part of the floor. He’s also one of Utah’s better defenders which isn’t saying much on this team.

G- Timmy Allen, Fr. 6’6, 210: 9.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.2 apg, 55.2% FG, 76.5% FT

The freshman out of Arizona has come in and been an immediate contributor as an exclusively post-oriented SF which is a dying breed these days. Only 5 of his 87 shot attempts have come outside the paint but he’s a good around the basket scorer and able to draw fouls at an above average rate.

G- Parker Van Dyke, Sr. 6’3, 185: 6.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 1.5 apg, 45.8% FG, 43.5% 3pt, 50% FT

Parker is your standard 3-pt specialist as over 80% of his shots have come from beyond the arc. He’s making a great percentage including making 5 of 9 during the Arizona road trip but has never shot better than 34.7% in any season before this so regression may be coming. Or he may just be getting much better looks this season.

G- Sedrick Barefield, Sr. 6’2, 190: 16.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 3.5 apg, 43.9% FG, 42.3% 3pt, 83% FT

Coming into the season it was clear that Barefield would be taking on a much bigger role and he has been equal to the challenge. He’s improved his passing and his 3-pt shooting despite using 6% more of his team’s possessions than he did a year ago. Despite being primarily a shooter he’s actually not as good in spot up situations as he is off the dribble. However, Barefield has been horrendous on defense. He ranks in the 4th percentile per Synergy Sports allowing opponents to shoot an aFG% of 60.6% when he guards them (higher than any individual on the Huskies has done this season).

2018-19 Utah Shot Chart

Utah has had a surprisingly efficient offense this season and the wide swaths on red on the chart below reveals why. They don’t attempt a lot of midrange shots and Sedrick Barefield is essentially the only player on the team that does. He’s taken 29 of the 56 (52%) Utah shots that haven’t come from beyond the arc or in the paint. Expect Matisse Thybulle to skew towards the offense’s left since for whatever reason Utah has struggled shooting 3’s from the right wing.

Synergy Sports

The Outlook

This appears to be the worst team Krystkowiak has had since his second season in Salt Lake City when the Utes went 15-18 (5-13). Since that year when he had fully established himself, Utah has not had a losing record in Pac-12 play. Before last week when Utah won at Arizona State and pushed Arizona to OT it seemed like that would change but now they look pretty feisty.

An efficient offense is one of the hallmarks of Larry K-led teams and this team is no exception despite the lack of a clear NBA talent like Delon Wright, Kyle Kuzma, or Jakob Poetl. The points per game numbers don’t pop up because of the slow pace of play (312th nationally in adjusted tempo) but they can really put the ball in the basket.

Sedrick Barefield leads the way as the senior lead ball handler and while he still isn’t a true point guard he’s adjusted to the role better than say David Crisp has. He’s shooting a career high 42% from 3-point range as one of five Utes making better than 36% of shots beyond the arc on 2+ attempts per game. Utah transitioned last year to a 3-point oriented team after years of killing teams at the rim and they’ve kept it up this season despite losing 3 of their top-4 sharpshooters.

Washington has been much more susceptible to giving up 3-pointers this season but if they can limit Utah from beyond the arc then they’re well positioned. Sedrick Barefield is the only player on the Utes that has consistently taken mid-range shots and he’s also their primary ball handler. There isn’t an obvious candidate on the roster to sit in the high post waiting for the ball to nail wide open free throw line jumpers. That will make it a lot easier for the Huskies to extend out to the Utah shooters. That might explain why Utah is in the 89th percentile in points per possession per Synergy Sports when playing against man defenses and just 58th percentile when playing against zone.

While the offense is as good as it has ever been for Utah, the defense is as of right now the worst since Krystkowiak took over. Pretty much the only thing that they do well is preventing offensive rebounds but otherwise there’s an ocean of red in their defensive rankings. The Utes are one of the 5 worst teams in the entire country in getting steals so the Huskies should have a serious possessions advantage. Utah is also well below average against both 2 and 3-pt shots given a lack of length and athleticism at a number of spots.

Utah has been slightly better this season on defense when they’ve played zone and they’ve done so about 1/3rd of the time so against a Husky team that, last game notwithstanding, has generally struggled to shoot the ball I wouldn’t be surprised to see them try that until UW proves they can beat it.

The Utes shot better than 50% from 3-pt range against both Arizona schools last weekend and if that trend continues against the Husky defense then UW is in serious trouble. But if they shoot closer to 35% then I can’t see Utah outscoring the Dawgs given that Washington should have a serious edge in transition since they’re so much better at generating steals.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 71, Utah Utes- 67

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