Tonight the Utes play their first conference home game against the 1-0 TCU Horned Frogs. The Utes are coming off a thrilling double overtime loss to UNLV Wednesday night and will be looking to snap a three game losing streak. Utah has not started 0-2 in conference play since the 1991-1992 season, but that could possibly change tonight.
Utah is 7-2 all-time against TCU, but lost the last meeting 69-65 last year in Fort Worth. TCU is currently 9-4 on the season with a conference win at home against New Mexico. The Horned Frogs are only 1-2 on the road this season, but the Utes aren't much better at home, as they're currently an uncharacteristically mediocre 4-3 at the Huntsman Center.
On paper the Utes look to be the better team, but that does not always tell the story. TCU shoots a poor 42% and only 40% from the three point line. Yet as we saw from the UNLV Rebels last Wednesday night, a poor shooting three point team can certainly get hot against a Utah team that's scared to defend the three point line. So while TCU might not be the best three point shooting team in the conference, they're capable of scorching Utah from outside because of the Utes meager defense.
TCU has also held its opponents to a fairly solid 60 points per game, while only scoring 63 themselves. Utah averages 71 points per game, but also give up 69 on the season. TCU will probably take advantage of this and hang tough with the Utes for most of the game and since the Utes haven't won a close game all season, I see the Utes snatching defeat from the claws of victory once again. In fact I can see this game playing out like the Albany game last month, an inferior foe walking into Utah's house and abusing a poor coached Utah squad. But what do I know, I've been underestimating Utah all year long, so a blowout victory wouldn't surprise me.
The Utes will need to step up defensively, especially when it comes to guarding sophomore Kevin Langford. While he's not an explosive scorer, he still can get loose and do some damage for the Frogs. If Utah is going to win this game, they will need to clamp down and defend the perimeter and Luke Nevill will need to step up and play some interior defense. He played very soft against UNLV Wednesday and it cost the Utes a missed opportunity at an inside game. He can't be delegated to stand outside of the paint, where he's least effective.
My heart says Utah wins, but my brain tells me a lot needs to happen for this to be the case. If the Utes play like they did against UNLV, they should win, though defensive lapses could cause some issues. The problem with Utah this season however is their inability to sustain success. They play one good game and follow it up with a bad one and that's been their MO all season long. So I guess the question today will be whether or not Utah can change this.
Tonight's game is important because a loss will usher in a bleak conference season. A win however, coupled with Wednesday's close double overtime loss to UNLV, might mean Utah's turned it around. Though we've been here before (victories over Rice, Weber and Wazzu), only to see the Utes return to their old habbits. So who the hell knows with this Utah team. I guess all that's left to say is GO UTES!