Date: Thursday, 1/23/19
Tip-Off Time: 5:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOMO 1000
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Betting line: Washington -2.5
Utah 2019-20 Statistics:
Record: 10-7 (1-4)
Points For per Game: 75.8 ppg (49th)
Points Against per Game: 72.8 ppg (244th)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 106.9 (63rd)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 102.7 (194th)
Strength of Schedule: 35th overall
Utah Key Players:
C- Riley Battin, So. 6’9, 234: 9.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.4 apg, 48.1% FG, 38.5% 3pt, 74.5% FT
Larry K loves his stretch bigs and Battin is a highly efficient shooter and the kind of offensive player at 6’9 that Husky fans want Hameir Wright to be. The flip side of that coin is that Battin is not a rim protector and has career steal and block percentages below 1% in both of his seasons. He’s also a below average rebounder for the amount of time he spends at center.
F- Mikael Jantunen, Fr. 6’8, 219: 7.0 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 0.9 apg, 66.2% FG, 36.4% 3pt, 76.3% FT
The Finnish freshman almost never shoots the ball but when he does it almost always goes into the basket. He’s converting an insane 72.2% of his 2-pt shots and is 4/7 on 3’s dead center facing the hoop. Isaiah Stewart will need to be willing to stay at home and deny cuts to the basket as Jantunen is leading the country in efficiency in that regard.
F- Timmy Allen, So. 6’6, 204: 19.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.5 apg, 47.0% FG, 20.0% 3pt, 75.8% FT
Allen carries the burden of being the primary scorer for Utah and he’s a bit of a throwback player as a high volume 6’6 forward who doesn’t really shoot 3’s. Allen has converted 55% of makes in the paint, 24% on midrange jumpers, and 20% on 3-pointers. The Huskies should let him take foul line jumpers all day against the zone but do whatever they can to avoid giving him position in the post. He ranks in the 93rd percentile posting up his defender but Washington’s size at the forward spot should hopefully give him trouble.
G- Both Gach So. 6’6, 183: 11.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.8 apg, 39.6% FG, 29.2% 3pt, 76.2% FT
Gach is yet another player who is dynamite in the paint and struggles to score from anywhere else on the floor. He’s in a major slump and in Utah’s past 3 games (all losses) Gach has scored a combined 12 points on 5/24 shooting. Let’s hope that continues for Utah’s number two option.
G- Rylan Jones, Fr. 6’0, 175: 10.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 4.8 apg, 43.9% FG, 45.2% 3pt, 85.7% FT
Jones has been very good as a true freshman point guard and is a true 3-point sniper. He’s also a good distributor but particularly in recent games he’s struggled with turnovers with 4 giveaways in 3 of their past 4 games. He hasn’t shown off much of a runner/floater game which can be effective against UW’s zone but he’s a good enough shooter that it wouldn’t surprise me if he could try to punish the Huskies with that shot.
2019-20 Utah Shot Chart
Like all Larry Krystkowiak teams this Utah bunch knows how to get the ball to the rim and how to convert once they get there. They don’t shoot it very often from the midrange but they’ve been terrible when they do let it fire from there which means the Huskies will do everything they can to seal off the paint with bodies. This isn’t a great 3-pt shooting Utah team but they have a few guys who can consistently make open shots so the perimeter in UW’s zone will just need to be wary of those couple guys.
Washington is off to a rough start in conference play but Utah is one of the few Pac-12 teams that have had it even worse. They at least have the excuse of strength of schedule to lean on. The Utes have had an absolutely brutal start to conference play with games against the 3 conference favorites Oregon, Arizona, and Colorado with 2 of them coming on the road. Things started out okay for them with a close loss to Oregon but the past 3 away games have all been blowout losses by an average of 25 points.
That’s been emblematic of an up and down team which sports 3 wins over top-40 teams (Minnesota, BYU, and Kentucky) but also losses to Coastal Carolina and Tulane. Washington has had its share of falters in Pac-12 play and if they’re capable of losing to UCLA and Cal then this is most certainly a lose-able game.
The strength of this Utah team, as always, is their ability to create open shots around the rim for easy layups. Utah has finished in the top-50 nationally in 2-pt shooting percentage nationally despite varying personnel because Larry K is a brilliant strategic coach. You can be sure that the Utes will have a variety of actions they’ll run against Washington’s zone to force Isaiah Stewart into guarding two players at once around the rim.
When they don’t get those easy looks though it’s possible for Utah’s offense to bog down. There are a few capable shooters but they’re still only slightly above average from deep on the season. Utah is also an average offensive rebounding team and can struggle with turnovers so they’re rarely creating a huge shot attempt advantage. That bodes well for the Huskies who have gotten into trouble by giving their opponents 10+ extra shot attempts over the course of games.
Despite those flaws, if Utah is going to beat you it’s going to be due to their offense because the defense has gotten torched in Pac-12 play. It will be a battle of weakness vs. weakness as Utah has given up an absurd 118.9 points per possession so far in conference play. For context, UW’s offense has been borderline unwatchable and still scored 94.9 points per 100 possessions.
The Utes tend to play defense as if they’re scared of getting close to the ball handler. They don’t put pressure on the ball which is why they’re 345th nationally in steal percentage. If the Huskies commit a ton of turnovers in this one it will be because they can’t stop travelling. That lack of ball pressure means that the Utes hardly ever give up free throws and while teams don’t shoot particularly well on 2-pointers they take more than half of their shots in that range. Expect plenty of double teaming of Isaiah Stewart but with hands held high trying to avoid actively fouling him.
Washington is coming off of a heartbreaking loss to a rival at home and it’s always impossible to know whether the team will be deflated or inspired. I thought coming into last Saturday that UW would need to win 3 out of 4 in their upcoming gauntlet to get back into the NCAA tourney field. They threw away a golden opportunity against Oregon which means a 3-game winning streak is really badly needed. This is the most winnable game of this stretch and I think actually is a good matchup which means the Huskies creep back towards .500 in conference.
Keep up with the game in the comments below. You can also follow me for all your UW Men’s Basketball News and Game Updates @UWDP_maxvroom