Game Matchups and Preview: Utah vs UCLA

The reeling Bruins come to SLC on the back end of Rocky Mountain swing

Guards
Want to be entertained? Watch Bryce Alford. He's like a circus clown out there, juggling chainsaws and walking tightropes. High risk. High reward. The only differences between Alford and the clown are that the clown doesn't drop the chainsaw and doesn't fall off the rope. Alford often does. The coaches son can score and can shoot, but often plays out of control and can take his team out of a game with turnovers and by clanking 25 footers like he did against Colorado in going 0 for 9 from deep. Norman Powell is a high riser that has improved his outside game this year, but like Alford, can be very streaky. He's averaging 15.6 points per game. Defensively, he'll get the task of slowing Wright as Powell is one of the best defenders in the conference. Isaac Hamilton is UCLA's third starting guard. Another streaky player, he averages 12.9 points per game, but is limited athletically. All of these guys are good, but all can disappear in a heartbeat, and do so often.

Delon Wright kicked off Pac 12 play with a double-double in a very efficient manner. He's got to be considered the best player in the conference. Brandon Taylor had a great opener against USC with 11 points on only shots, going 3 for 4 from downtown.
Advantage: Even

Forwards
Freshman Kevon Looney is one of the best freshman in the country. He's built like Kevin Durant, but without the shooting touch or outside range. Think long, lanky, and a rebounding dynamo, especially on the offensive end. A double-double machine.

Jordan Loveridge's return has been seamless as he's led the team in scoring in both games. His 3 point shooting has been on point and will help carry Utah at times this season when others are struggling. Chris Reyes had a solid game against USC with 6 point and 9 boards. The task he'll have against Looney will be one of the toughest he faces all season.
Advantage: Even

Center
It's always a question of which Tony Parker shows up for UCLA. If he's engaged, getting touches, and not getting into foul trouble, Parker is one of the best bigs in the conference. He does have a tendency to disappear at times though. Against Poeltl, he may not be able to use his brute force inside to create his own shot as he's done against smaller defenders.

Jakob Poeltl has struggled in recent games, mostly due to foul trouble, which hasn't allowed him to stay on the court long enough to make an impact. Still, he's averaging nearly a double-double and the potential for him to have another breakout game is always there.
Advantage: Even

Bench
Utah goes 12 deep, but after the USC game, looks to have maybe shored that up to about 9 with Kuzma, Olsen, and Isaiah Wright being the odd-men out. That leaves Tucker, Chapman, Bachynski, and Ogbe, which pretty much covers every single need Utah has from their reserves.

UCLA, on the other hand, goes only 8 deep now that forward Wannah Bail has been deemed academically ineligible. Center Thomas Welsh is a 7 footer that can make an impact on both ends, but has been inconsistent. Freshman Gyorgy Goloman and sophomore Noah Allen will get about 10 minuets each, but neither scares anyone.
Advantage: Utah

Breakdown
On paper and looking at the matchups above, you'd think this was a pretty even battle. It's not. While UCLA probably has more eventual NBA talent, Utah's edges in depth, and their HUGE edge in the coaching battle means they are the better team. They also will have the best player on the floor in Delon Wright. If this game was 7 weeks from now, the Bruins might be a tougher game. Instead, they're in a free-fall and playing some of the worst basketball in the conference right now. As long as Parker doesn't have one of his big games and Alford doesn't catch fire where some of his low percentage shots start falling, the Utes should get the win.

The Pick
Utah 76 UCLA 67

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