Utah Utes (17-9)
- Latest BTD Pac-12 Power Rankings: 6th Overall (8-6)
- Head Coach: Larry Krystkowiak (6th Season)
- Top Performer: Kyle Kuzma (15.7 PPG, 10.2 RPG)
- Points For: 79.8 PPG (46th)
- Points Against: 68.3 PPG (T-78th)
- Last Game/Streak: 79-61 Loss at Oregon (1L)
The big news surrounding Sunday’s game against Utah is the unknown health of Utah forward Kyle Kuzma (15.7 PPG), who injured his ankle in practice on Wednesday and missed the Utes’ Thursday night loss at Oregon. Kuzma is expected to be a gameday decision as to whether he’ll partake in the showdown against Oregon State, but his absence could be the break the Beavers need to finally end their losing ways. Kuzma is one of the league’s best talents (and a potential All-Pac-12 performer), who was averaging a conference leading 15 double-doubles on the season.
Without Kuzma, the cupboard is still pretty stocked for Utah, as head coach Larry Krystkowiak has three additional players who average double-figures in scoring. Led by forward David Collette (14.4 PPG), a Utah State transfer who has become one of the conference’s best surprises, the Utes’ also have the unique combination of senior guard Lorenzo Bonam (12.7 PPG) and freshman guard Devon Daniels (10.5 PPG) at their disposal. Oregon State’s intent should be to slow the bouncy pace of the Bonam-Daniel backcourt combination, a duo who helps spearhead one of the country’s most consistent offenses.
While Utah has remained a “big-man centered team” under Coach Krystkowiak, the litany of gifted guards on this year’s roster have changed the pace a bit for the Utes, who relies more this season on their ball-handlers and three-point shooters than ever before. A litany of key backcourt pieces, including SMU transfer/occasional starter Sedrick Barefield (9.4 PPG) and junior JoJo Zamora (7.5 PPG), have all aided in keeping the Utah offense in flow.
On the interior, a developing duo of Southern Utah transfer Tyler Rawson (6.6 PPG) and 7’ 1” freshman Jayce Johnson (4.1 PPG) have been serviceable, but as of late, the hidden depth of this front-court has come more into focus. Rawson, who has struggled with consistent shot-making throughout the campaign, did emerge with a twenty-point display against Stanford just two months ago, albeit with help from four made three-pointers, while Johnson, a true interior presence, is coming off a double-double night against Oregon, where he tallied 14 points and 12 rebounds in the loss.
For Oregon State to pull this thing off, the Beavers must continue to have their solid first halves that they’ve become accustomed to as of late and find a way to win the first few minutes of the second half, allowing this one to become a nail-biting contest down the final stretch. What this could allow Oregon State to do, is to rely heavily in those crucial moments on players like forward Drew Eubanks, who have time-and-time-again proved themselves worthy of the star player role. However, it’s about getting to that point first. The Beavers need to avoid putting themselves in a hole from the get-go and execute offensively to finally snap their long and demoralizing conference losing streak.
Players To Watch
Kyle Kuzma (Junior - Forward)
Kuzma’s health is the main storyline to watch heading into this one, as Utah’s dynamic changes quite a bit without their steady double-double machine on the court. With Kuzma, the Utes are a strong and balanced offensive team with a superbly gifted main focal point. Without Kuzma, there’s potential there for Utah to sputter out, like they did in stretches against Oregon.
David Collette (Junior - Forward)
Kuzma may take the regular headlines (and rightfully so) for Utah but it’s been junior forward David Collette that has been the rock that holds the Utes together all-season long. Collette missed the first eight games of the season due to a concussion and more recently, he also missed the team’s road trip to Washington State and Washington, with lingering concussion-like symptoms. However, when Collette has been on the court, he’s posted double-figures in scoring in every single game this season.
Sedrick Barefield (Sophomore - Guard)
In order to stave off some slow first halves by his team, Larry Krystkowiak inserted Barefield into the starting line-up (replacing Lorenzo Bonam) against Oregon and the Utes still were trailing by 16 at the mid-way point. What is it they said about the best laid plans again? Barefield didn’t have the intended impact against the Ducks (he totaled 7 points on 3-12 shooting from the field) but if Kuzma is out, there should be more minutes out there for Barefield to pick up. This could be one of those breakout games for the sophomore guard.