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Pac-12 Tourney: Utah Game Preview & How to Watch

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The #6 seeded Huskies begin their quest at an upset run to the NCAA tournament over the next 4 days

NCAA Basketball: Utah at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch (and bet)

Date: Wednesday, 3/9/21

Tip-Off Time: 8:30 pm PT (if game before it goes late then start time will be pushed back to accommodate since it happens on the same court)

TV: Pac-12 Networks

Streaming: Pac-12.com/live

Radio: Huskies Gameday App & Sports Radio KJR

Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

DraftKings Betting Line: Washington Huskies -1

Utah Utes 2021-22 Statistics:

Record: 11-19 (4-16)

Points For per Game: 69.7 ppg (183rd)

Points Against per Game: 70.5 ppg (191st)

Adjusted Offensive Efficiency: 107.7 (94th)

Adjusted Defensive Efficiency: 103.3 (167th)

Strength of Schedule: 60th

Utah Key Players:

G- Rollie Worster, So. 6’4, 201: 7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.0 apg, 41.0% FG, 33.3% 3pt, 80.4% FT

Against UW this year: 10.0 pts, 5.5 reb, 2.5 ast, 8/15 FG, 3/4 3pt, 1/2 FT

G- Marco Anthony, Sr. 6’5. 223: 8.8 ppg, 7.2rpg, 2.1 apg, 41.0% FG, 35.3% 3pt, 64.3% FT

Against UW this year: 11.5 pts, 11.0 reb, 3.0 ast, 9/23 FG, 0/3 3pt, 5/8 FT

G- Lazar Stefanovich, Fr. 6’7, 186: 7.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.3 apg, 35.6% FG, 30.5% 3pt, 83.3% FT

Against UW this year: 10.5 pts, 5.0 reb, 1.5 ast, 4.5 TO, 8/24 FG, 5/13 3pt, 0/0 FT

F- Both Gach, Fr. 6’6, 189: 9.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.3 apg, 42.0% FG, 30.1% 3pt, 80.3% FT

Against UW this year: 3.0 pts, 4.0 reb, 2.0 ast, 2/11 FG, 0/5 3pt, 2/2 FT

C- Branden Carlson, Jr. 7'0, 216: 13.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 50.2% FG, 31.5% 3pt, 81.8% FT

Against UW this year: 15.0 pts, 7.0 reb, 2.5 blk, 11/21 FG, 1/3 3pt, 5/6 FT

The Outlook

There’s an old adage that it’s very difficult to beat a team 3 times in the same season. The stats don’t exactly back it up in the aggregate but when the two teams are relatively evenly matched then it certainly holds a little more true. You might wonder how I can say these two teams are closely matched. Utah finished with 7 fewer wins in conference play. There’s a reason this is the #6 vs. #11 matchup and the Huskies are the higher seeded team.

However the analytics that look at overall efficiency rather than win-loss record consistently have both UW and Utah in the 110-120 range. That’s why the spread is barely tilted in UW’s favor. KenPom has a “luck” metric that is not actually about whether your team has truly gotten lucky. It is instead more of a measure of how closely your win-loss record reflects the actual quality of your team mostly by virtue of the outcome of close games. The Huskies are 27th in Luck while Utah is 357th. Simulate the season 10 times and Utah finishes equal with or ahead of UW a few of those times. Washington managing to come out victorious against the Utes in 2OT in Seattle is partly a reflection of this as that win could’ve reasonably gone either way.

Utah may have ended the regular season on a 3-game home losing streak but it’s not unreasonable to say they overall played better than expected down the stretch. After starting out Pac-12 play 1-11 they finished 3-5 over the last 8 games including losses by 5 points or fewer against Oregon and Arizona State plus at Colorado. In the last 6 weeks the only games they haven’t been extremely competitive in were against #1 seed Arizona and #4 seed Colorado.

The biggest strength on offense this season for Utah has been their performance at the free throw line. As a team they shot 77.1% and among the players who theoretically might see play in crunch time only Marco Anthony is making below 75%. It’s a much better idea to put Utah away then let them go into the endgame with a small lead and rely on them to miss at the line to have a shot to get back into it.

The free throw shooting doesn’t carry over to the rest of the offense as Utah ranks 258th in effective field goal percentage. Star center Brendan Carlson is adept at scoring from just about anywhere but no one else for Utah does a consistently good job finishing at the rim. No one in their guard rotation shoots better than 45% on 2-point shots which is below average. If Carlson gets in foul trouble then the Utes become reliant on hitting their outside shot to keep up.

One of the defining elements of Utah’s defense is their inability to create turnovers. They rank 338th in steal percentage on defense which needless to say is not great. In the first game Washington was able to end up +13 in turnovers but Utah did a much better job the second time around and the Huskies were only +4. The Utes are also only an average rebounding team (which is still better than a terrible one like Washington). If the trends hold then UW should be able to hold relatively even in rebounds while winning the turnover battle and end up with a possession advantage.

Brendan Carlson is Utah’s best player on both ends of the court and so it’s good news for the Huskies that Nate Roberts is playing the best basketball of his career right now. In the home sweep of the Oregon school Roberts averaged 15.5 points and 16.0 rebounds. If he is able to put up numbers anywhere close to that against Carlson it will be a very good sign for UW’s chances.

Against Oregon State on Saturday the Huskies played plenty of Daejon Davis who was clearly gutting through his shoulder injury and attempted just one shot in 27 minutes. Hopefully with an extra 4 days of rest he’ll be in better shape as it will be much more difficult to win playing 4v5 on offense even with the benefits that Davis gives on the defensive end. I would expect Utah to play off of him until he shows he’s willing to shoot the ball and punish them for doing so.

This is certainly a losable game for Washington as the Utes have been in every game against the bottom 2/3rds of the conference over the last 6 weeks including in Seattle against UW. I see Washington getting it done tonight though and surviving to play USC tomorrow night in the quarterfinals.

Prediction

Washington Huskies- 72, Utah Utes- 69