Saturday is the first ever matchup of Pac-12 teams in the Top-10. To be clarifying, the Pac-10 has had many such instances, the most un-recent of which occurred in January of 2010. This game, as it were, is significant.
Which naturally means I need to talk to someone else about it. To scratch that itch, we’ve got Grant Bagby – the man, myth, and legend behind the multi-faceted Utah blog, Torn By Sports.
Let’s get to know Utah, from the perspective of Utah, as we head into the biggest conference basketball game since, like, ever:
PacHoops: Started from the 6-win season now we’re here. How did we get here – to a Utah team in the top-10?
Grant Bagby: It all starts with Jordan Loveridge. At the time he chose to go to Utah he was the top player in the state and the Utes program was on life support. Since then Coach Krystkowiak has made it a point to get the top talent in the state. Add the recruiting with the defensive, hard nose style of play Coach Krystkowiak has installed and voila! The Utes are a top ranked team.
PH: Speaking of Jordan, with him recovering from a knee injury, who has stepped into his role? How does the team change with his return?
GB: While Jordan Loveridge was out his starting role was filled by Kenneth Ogbe. Loveridge has since returned and is back to starting. However, with the Utes depth it has allowed Loveridge and others to not play as many minutes as last year. Loveridge and Delon Wright are averaging 10 minutes less per game this season vs. last season.
PH:What makes Delon Wright so special?
Everything. Okay, not everything. The fact is that Delon contributes to the game in almost every way statistically. He is averaging 15 points per game, 6 assist per game, 5 rebounds per game,1 block per game, and 2 steals per game. Wright has proven he will do what is needed to have the team win whether that is scoring or defense.
PH: But we know about Delon – a possible national player of the year candidate and a regularly studied talent on these pages – who are the other talents we need to pay attention to? Who’s the most important player not named Delon?
GB: Look out for Brandon Taylor. He is the Utes best three point shooter and will be guarding the best guard player on any team the Utes face. In the paint everyone, including many NBA scout, will be watch Jakob Poeltl. The seven foot freshman has been impacting every game so far. However, he has a tendency to get into foul trouble.
PH: The Utes rank 28th in FG% at the rim and 28th in 3FG% which I consider a vicious combination. The latter is the best a Larry K team has ever shot from distance. Who are the main shooting threats?
The Utes have really improved shooting from the outside. Brandon Taylor and Dakarai Tucker are the most like guards to shoot a three point shot. However, most Utah fans will expect the three point shot to go in if Jordan Loveridge, Kenneth Ogbe, or Brekkott Chapman are taking the shot.
PH: What’s your favorite thing about this team?
GB: This team never backs down. The Utes will never stop fighting. When down 21 to Kansas, Utah fought back and even took the lead late in the game. No matter what happens in any game the Utes will continue to fight to get a win.
PH: How do you see this one playing out?
GB: The game with Arizona will be a grinder. Utah will look to play control, turnover free basketball. But coming off the tough stretch Arizona has had and the fact Utah is on the road, Arizona wins it 65-61.