How to Watch (and bet)
Date: Tuesday, 12/21/21
Tip-Off Time: 6:00 pm PT
TV: Pac-12 Washington
Radio: KJR 950 AM/KVI 570
Location: Seattle, Washington
DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies -6
Utah Valley 2021-22 Statistics:
Record: 8-3 (6-3 against D1)
Points For per Game: 72.2 ppg (132nd)
Points Against per Game: 67.0 ppg (121st)
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 100.0 (189th)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 99.4 (143rd)
Strength of Schedule: 164th
Utah Valley Wolverines Key Players:
G- Blaze Nield, Jr. 6’1, 185: 7.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 4.5 apg, 40.0% FG, 29.4% 3pt, 80.8% FT
You gotta love yourself a point guard named “Blaze”. Nield transferred from BYU and has been a rock solid passing point guard option. He’s much more comfortable as a distributor although his usage rate is up 50% this year compared to last. Expect him to primarily dump it off to UVU’s talented bigs and only shoot when truly open.
G- Le’Tre Darthard, So. 6’4, 180: 10.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.8 apg, 38.7% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 91.7% FT
Last year Darthard was the most efficient player in WAC conference play hitting 53% of his 3-pointers. It had been a rough start to his sophomore campaign until they played D-III Bethesda and Darthard found his stroke to end up with 30 points. If he can’t get his shooting back on track though then he doesn’t provide a lot of utility in other aspects of the game.
G- Connor Harding, Jr. 6’6, 185: 10.9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.7apg, 41.6% FG, 36.4% 3pt, 60.6% FT
Another BYU transfer, Harding has found instant success in his first year with the Wolverines. He has nearly doubled his previous best scoring average with the Cougars. The turnover rate is much higher than you’d like (at least 3 turnovers in 8 of their 11 games) but when he gets a shot up it’s fairly efficient. Expect UW to try trapping him when they get the chance to see if he’ll cough up the ball under intense pressure.
F- Tim Fuller, So. 6’9, 235: 6.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 63.3% FG, 50.0% FT
Fuller transferred from Weber State where he had a really nice freshman season. Last year was a bit of a setback as he struggled to crack the rotation but he’s a career 62% shooter from the field so he can score down low. He is also a consistently excellent offensive rebounder and it won’t be a surprise if he has 5+ tonight against the Huskies.
C- Fardaws Aimaq, So. 6’11, 245: 19.8 ppg, 13.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg, 51.2% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 66.7% FT
The 3rd year player out of Vancouver BC started his career at Mercer but blossomed last year into one of the best centers in the country. Last year he finished 1st in the country in defensive rebounding rate and 8th in offensive rebounding rate. This season it’s 14th and 151st respectively but that’s still ridiculous. Washington will find it very difficult to go to their small lineup with Aimaq on the other side especially since he plays nearly every minute for Utah Valley. In an OT upset win over BYU Aimaq had 24 points, 22 rebounds, and 5 steals. He could easily have 20 rebounds tonight.
Coming into the year this looked like it would be an easy win but Utah Valley has shown they will challenge for the WAC conference title along with New Mexico State and Grand Canyon. The focal point of the team is center Fardaws Aimaq. Washington has been killed by top level post scorers/rebounders this season and while Aimaq isn’t an overly skilled post-up artist he is liable to play volleyball at the rim until eventually his shot falls.
Part of the reason why UW has been susceptible to opposing big men is that they’ve played a lot of teams with shooting threats that have made crowding the paint a tough proposition. That’s less the case for Utah Valley. They are 341st nationally in the percentage of their points coming from 3-pt makes. Against D1 competition, only one player on the team has averaged better than 1.5 makes per game or is shooting better than 36% from the 3-point line. Whether or not Hop is too stubborn to do it, the Huskies should be willing against this team to surrender the occasional 3-point shot to pack the paint and try to stop Aimaq.
Utah Valley has been surprisingly solid on the defensive end as well. They’re top-100 in the country in both opponent 2-pt% and 3-pt% and 32nd in limiting opponent’s free throws. Washington like normal will need to rely on their defense creating turnovers in order to try to create enough offense to win this game.
If things end up coming down to the wire then Utah Valley certainly won’t be intimidated. 4 of their 6 wins against D1 competition have come in overtime: at #233 Pepperdine, at #279 Long Beach State, vs. #329 Denver, and vs. #24 BYU. They managed to win all of those games by at least 6 points so when it matters they’ve managed to pour it on opposing teams.
The upset of BYU is what makes predicting this game so difficult. In their other 8 games against D1 competition they’re 5-0 against teams ranked 200th or worse at KenPom and 0-3 against teams ranked 150th or better. Clearly at their best Utah Valley is capable of winning at Washington, they’ve shown that. It’s worth noting though that Justin Harmon had 24 points and 3 blocks for Utah Valley in that win over BYU but he has missed their last 3 games including a pair of losses. His status is unknown for this game but if he doesn’t play it should give UW a bigger edge.
I’m tempted to pick against the Huskies here. I really think there’s a decent chance that Fardaws Aimaq ends up with a 20/20 game and eats Nate Roberts alive in the post. If Washington is able to get him in foul trouble though then the rest of Utah Valley’s roster is not going to be able to keep up unless they have a completely out of body shooting experience. I’ll hedge and say it’s close but Washington manages to squeak out the win despite Utah Valley’s record in close games.
Washington Huskies- 67, Utah Valley Wolverines- 66