After defeating USC Upstate with ease Friday, the Utes set their sights on High Point in the preseason NIT tonight. High Point is 0-1 on the season, losing to Charlotte 55-61. The winner of this game will meet the winner of the Washington-New Jersey Institute of Technology game for a trip to New York.
The Utes have hardly been tested early in the Boylen era. Utah easily rolled Montana Tech and Northwest Nazarene in the exhibition season and routed an under matched USC Upstate for the first official victory of the Boylen era. And while High Point will be hard pressed to beat the Utes, they do offer up a challenge for Boylen's emphasis on defense.
While no one will mistake High Point's offense for that of Paul Westhead's old Loyola Marymount teams, it will provide the Utes an early test. Mostly because this is the first program Utah will face this season that has actually been at the DI level for more than a game. In their loss to Charlotte Friday, the Panthers shot 21-56 from the field and made 33% of their three point shots. Those aren't eye popping statistics, but they're far better than what the first three teams on the schedule have offered up. If Utah can hold High Point's shooting percentage in the 20s, this team's defense could be scary good.
High Point might not be a good opponent for Utah, but after last year's losses at home to Southern Utah, Colorado, Albany and TCU, any win over an inferior team should be a sign of progress. With the Utes' defensive intensity showing improvement, this team should really cruise to victory. However, you can't take anything for granted, especially with the numerous upsets that have happened so far in the college basketball season.
What to watch:
- How will Utah's defense look against a better opponent? The win over USC Upstate was nice, but who are we kidding, it's not like they're any good, anyway. That team is going to struggle and High Point, though far from being at the Utah level, were picked to win their conference and are a step up from what Utah has played. As I touched on above, if Utah's defense continues looking good in this game, I think it will be clear things have dramatically changed under Boylen's coaching staff.
- Will Luke Nevill find his game? Nevill hasn't played that bad over the past three games, but he's been far from dominant. With Utah probably needing to rely on him more once conference season starts, Nevill needs to become a far more important part of this offense. Here's hoping that starts tonight.
- Will Lawrence Borha produce another great game? Borha struggled at times under Giacoletti, but has flourished with Boylen. He was the leading scorer in Friday's win over USC Upstate with 20 points and will look to continue that success against High Point. With Tyler Kepkay and Bohra looking fairly impressive, Utah's guard play has been pretty damn solid.
Here's to a Utah victory and a second round match with Washington. The game tips off at 6:00 MST and is not on television.