Lonzo Ball (USA Today)

Preview: Utah vs. UCLA

UteZone takes a closer look at the keys to Utah's matchup with #4 UCLA

After taking down the 25th ranked Trojans on Thursday, the Utes have an even greater opportunity as they take on the the high-octane UCLA Bruins currently ranked 4th in the entire country. 

Here’s a look at a per game statistical comparison between the two teams:

UCLA is the number 1 offensive team in college basketball, as they’re lead the country in a few advanced metrics like Offensive Rating, 3pt %, TrueShooting%, and are 2nd in the country in FG%. There is a lot of talent on this Bruin squad and they share the ball really well, which can be difficult to defend, similar to the balanced attack from the Runnin Utes.

Utah 80.4 50.5 50.5 39.6 15.1 4.2 6.0 31.9
UCLA 93.4 74.9 53.5 39.3 22.4 6.2 6.5 44.1

The Utes are stronger on the defensive side of the ball, so it’s going to be a battle of who-breaks-who first. The Runnin Utes rank in the top 30 in a few defensive metrics, as they have a defensive rating of 90.4 and they’re limiting teams to 39.1% shooting. So does the offensive attack from the Bruins prove to be too much for the Utes, or can the Utes take advantage on the defensive end, at home with a raucous crowd behind them.

The three main players to pay attention to are TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford, and Lonzo Ball. While Alford is the leading scorer at 17.9 and Leaf right behind him with 17.1, it’s Lonzo Ball that has really lifted the Bruins to this level of play. He’s a dynamic playmaker that can really do it all. He’s averaging about 14 points and 8 assists per game, while shooting 52% from the field. Alford is a guy they run off screens and look for him to score from deep. TJ Leaf is a do-it-all power forward, that attacks the offensive boards, and has a nice inside-outside game.

KEY MATCHUP: Utah’s backcourt vs UCLA’s backcourt

Where the Utes really need to show up is on the defensive end of the ball. The Bruins are very talented in the backcourt, so it’s going to take a tremendous effort from Bonam, Zamora, Barefield, and Daniels. The Utes haven’t been the best at defending perimeter players, but this 2-2-1/2-3 zone defense has really helped defending shots. Guys need to be locked in on the defensive side, not only defending shots, but securing rebounds as well.

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