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Mens' basketball preview: Utah

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The Huskies will look to improve to 6-1 in conference play on the season when they take on the Utah Utes later today.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskies will look to stay perfect at home in conference play  Sunday as  they play host to the Utah Utes. The Huskies are coming off a solid 95-83 over the Colorado Buffaloes Thursday. Like virtually every other conference opponent, the Utes will provide the Huskies a stiff test tonight. Let's take a quick look at how the Utes.

Utah at a glance:  Conference record: 3-3,  RPI: 25

The Utes have had an up and down season up until this point. They were a preseason favorite to win the league by some, and were widely expected to finish somewhere in the top three of the conference. There is still time for the latter to happen, but the Utes have dug themselves a sizable hole, as they have already dropped  three conference games. A sweep of the Washington schools is critical if they want to get back into the hunt for the Pac-12 title.

Three Utes to watch:

Jakob Poeltl was thought to be a top ten pick last season had he entered the draft, but he opted to return for his sophomore season.However, Poeltl decided to return for his sophomore season and it seems to have paid off for the seven foot Austrian.  He is averaging a team best 16.2 points per game this season, up from 9.1 points last year. He has also upped his rebounding average, pulling down 8.9 rebounds per game, up from 6.8 boards last year. His performance this season has also helped his draft stock, as he is projected as the eighth overall pick, according to DraftExpress. The Huskies have faced skilled big men this season, but Poeltl will in all likelihood be the best big man they have faced all season. It will be critical for the Huskies big men to stay out of foul trouble. If Noah Dickcerson, Malik Dime, and/or Marquese Chriss pick up early fouls, expect Poeltl to take make them pay.

Remember Jordan Loveridge? It seems like it was just yesterday that he burst onto the Pac-12 scene as a freshman. Well, he's still around, and is still a major contributor for the Utes. The senior is averaging 12.1 points per game on 43 percent from the field. More impressively, he is shooting 41.3% from three this season. The Utes have moved Loveridge from the power forward to the wing over the last two seasons, and while he seems to have made the transition relatively well, his rebounding numbers have really dropped. He is only averaging 3.7 rebounds this season, and hasn't averaged over four rebounds in the last two seasons. Loveridge may be a bit of a mismatch that the Utes might be able to take advantage of,  as he is a big bodied wing. If he can get into the lane, he should be able to use his size to finish at the rim. It will be interesting to watch how the Utes use Loveridge in this one.

Kyle Kuzma rounds out this bunch of Utes to watch heading into Sunday's match up. The sophomore forward is averaging 11 points and 5.8 rebounds this season. He uses his length well, and is a very productive player out of the post. Similar to Poeltl, it will be imperative that the Huskies' starting big men stay out of foul trouble, or Kuzma may be able to take advantage.

Prediction: The Utes are going to look to slow the pace down, grind out the game by posting up, and will look to get back on defense before the Huskies can get out in transition. This will certainly be a clash of styles, and it should be fun to watch. As has happened so many times this season, this game will hinge on whether or not the Huskies talented front court can stay out of foul trouble. Ultimately, while I expect Poeltl to have a big game, I think the Huskies supreme athletic advantage and pace of play will be too much for the Utes to handle. Washington 89 Utah 78