After an impressive showing in their first conference game against the Colorado Buffaloes, the Runnin Utes are on the road this Thursday, as they take on the 17th ranked Arizona Wildcats in the McKale Center.
Here’s a look at a per game statistical comparison between the two teams:
While the Runnin' Utes top the Wildcats in almost every statistical category, it’s very important to keep in my mind the level of competition. The Arizona Wildcats are ranked 38th in SOS, while the Utes are ranked much, much, much lower at 264th. The Wildcats currently have 6 wins vs the RPI top 100, whereas the Utes got their first & only win versus a RPI Top 100 team just last week vs the Buffs.
According to cbstats.com, the Running Utes & Wildcats are similar in terms of style of play. Both are effective defensively, however where the Wildcats separate themselves from the Utes is the 3pt line. The Wildcats shoot it less from deep, but they make a higher %, and defend much better, holding opponents to 29% shooting from 3pt range. The Utes have to create some 3pt opportunities and convert those chance, and they have to be strong in the paint defensively.
The Wildcats have a very talented roster, and already have two conference wins after defeating Stanford and Cal last week. A name that many Ute fans will recognize, Lauri Markkanen. He’s a versatile, talented, and athletic big man with a nice stroke as well, as he’s is the leading scorer, rebounder, and 3pt shooter. Kobi Simmons, a 5-star guard in last year’s class, is their backcourt playmaker, he’s shown the ability to shoot from deep as well as break down his defender and get to the hoop.
KEY MATCHUP: Kyle Kuzma vs Lauri Markkanen
If the Utes are going to have any chance at beating the Wildcats on their home floor, Kyle Kuzma has to have a strong performance against their star freshman. Kuzma needs to be energetic & active on the defensive end, as Arizona will get Markkanen many opportunities to score from all over the floor. He also needs to assert himself on the offensive side, which means that he needs to get to the hoop.