Brandon Taylor has turned into a rock for the Utes on both ends of the court down the stretch. The Oregon game aside, he's been the leader and on-court example that the Utes have fed off of during their tremendous late season play. His 9.6 points per game and 3.8 assists per game don't tell the whole story in terms of his value. When Taylor is playing well, Utah wins. His backcourt running mate, Lorenzo Bonam, has enjoyed an up and down season, and like Taylor, when he plays well, the Utes are nearly unstoppable. He's averaging 9.1 points, 3.1 assists, and shooting over 50% from the field, but his biggest contribution against Fresno State may have to come on the defensive end due to the man below.
Fresno State guard Marvelle Harris had a tremendous 2015-16 season, earning himself Mountain West Conference player of the year honors. He's a bit of a one man show for the Bulldogs, leading the team with 20.6 points per game and 4.4 assists. That comes on a lot of shot attempts though, and he's only shooting just over 40% from the field. Still, he's a big bodied kid at 6-4, 205 pounds, and will be a tough matchup for whoever guards him. Utah cannot let Harris get into a rhythm or he can easily go for 35. Cezar Guerrero will man the point for the Bulldogs on Thursday and he's pitching in 8.1 points and 2.4 assists per game. Julien Lewis is the third guard in Fresno's trio. The 6-4 shooter is 8.6 points per game, and shooting 42.9% from deep on the year.
Jordan Loveridge turned around a poor first half to the season with a great February and early March, culminating in an all conference honorable mention nod. He's hit a team leading 86 3s this season and averages over 11 points per game. Kyle Kuzma's late season swoon continued into the Pac 12 tournament. He was great against USC, but had poor games against Cal and Oregon and was benched for long periods. He'll need to be better going forward and can possibly pick up some confidence against the Bulldogs.
Cullen Russo mans the power forward spot for Fresno State and will do his best to slow Kyle Kuzma. He's a 6-9 guy that can step out and shoot the 3 a bit, and averages 8 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
It's the best center in the country versus a team that really doesn't have much of a center and Jakob Poeltl should thrive. He's the Pac 12's player of the year and a possible top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. The 7 footer comes in averaging over 17 points and 9 rebounds per game. On both ends of the court, there's nothing he can't do. Good luck to Fresno in holding him under 20.
Karachi Edo is more of a power forward, but we'll place him in the center spot for Thursday as he'll likely be the one trying to body up Poeltl with his 6-6, 230 pound frame. Edo is third on the team in scoring at 9.9 points per game (second for active players) and pulls down 6.4 rebounds. The big man also blocks 1.4 shots per contest, but is going to be out of his league against Poeltl.
Utah's bench has shored up as the season has gone along, but they're still getting good minutes from Dakari Tucker and Brekkott Chapman with Isaiah Wright and Chris Reyes offering spot relief. Tucker may get more time on Thursday to help match-up with Harris as his size and length should be an asset.
Fresno goes 8 deep and will likely rely on center Terrell Carter more than normal to slow down Poeltl. He's a big guy at 6-9, 275 pounds, but doesn't do much statistically averaging only 4 points and 2.5 boards. Point guard Jahmel Taylor comes in averaging 4.9 points with swingman Paul Watson chipping in 7.6 per contest.
Utah 78 Fresno State 63