Tonight the Utes look to run their record to 3-3 and to win their third straight game of the season as Washington State rolls into town. Wazzu, currently undefeated in play, enters the game with a 7-0 record. Utah is fresh off a victory over instate rival Weber State and will be looking to avenge last season's embarrassing loss to the Cougars. In that game, played in Seattle, the Utes were at the negative end of a 69-42 massacre. The Utes failed to find their footing the rest of the season and limped to the school's first losing record in 17 years.
Washington State last played Wednesday, a 12 point victory over Portland State. And while they're undefeated on the season, their wins are less than impressive. The Cougars struggled against both Boise State and Idaho State at home and they have zero wins against teams from power conferences.
This is an important game for the Utes, because their last game against a team from a power conference didn't go over so well. Washington State is a decent team, but not great and if the Utes lose this game, it could really signal even more problems for an already struggling basketball program. Historically the Utes have dominated Washington State. They hold an all-time series lead of 12-2, but as mentioned earlier, Wazzu won the last meeting.
Both Utah and Washington State average 70 PPG, however on the defensive end the Cougars are a much better team, or so it would appear. Utah has given up on average 68 PPG this season, while Washington State has held their opponents to only 57 PPG game. Field goal discrepancy is another issue for the Utes, as they still allow teams to shoot over 50% on the season. Washington State holds its opponents to an average of 38% when it comes to shooting, something the Utes will need to work around if they have any chance of winning this game.
I look for a very tight game, much like the Utah-Colorado one. If the Utes do get into a hole early, I doubt they'll have enough fight to climb back out of it. I'm not sold on Washington State, but it isn't as if the Utes are much better than Boise State or Idaho State either, so it may not matter how good Washington State is. A win here however could position the Utes for a nice little run to end the preseason. After their game against Utah State in Logan, a probable loss, the Utes have a pretty easy schedule the remainder of the preseason.
If Utah is going to save this season, they will need to win these games. Entering conference play with a respectable 6 or 7 wins, might in fact do just that. It's been a slow start for Utah, however a win over Washington State could change the outlook of this season.
|Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City
|Radio: AM 700 The Zone
|All-Time: Utah leads 12-2
|Last Meeting: 2005 (Wazzu 69, Utah 42)