Hey what do you know, another basketball game is upon us. Yup, we get to agonize over a probable close defeat and watch our beloved Utes slip further and further below .500. Tonight could get ugly, even if the Utes hang tough, because starting 0-3 would have a monumental impact on Utah's history.
The Utes haven't started 0-3 in conference play in 54 years, that dates back to 1953 when they played in the Skyline Conference and were coached by Vadal Peterson, the winningest coach in Utah basketball history. Yet with a loss to the Rams tonight, they very well could be looking at an 0-3 start and possibly their worst start in the history of this program.
Tonight's game will be a battle and I expect the Utes to play much like they have the past two conference games. They'll probably hang around, fold faster than a WNBA franchise and lose in the waning seconds. A close win, though not very probable, would surprise me more than anything, yes it would surprise me even more than a blowout victory on the road.
The Rams are a decent team and probably the most overall talented squad Dale Layer has coached. They're 11-3 on the season and 2-0 in conference play, including an impressively large road victory over the Lobos at The Pit. Yet this is a team still coached by Dale Layer and even though Giacoletti has yet to prove he's a better coach than his adversary, Utah probably has the talent to match up well with the Rams. But Utah's success goes only as far as their defense, which has cost them more than a few games this year.
The Rams average 75 points this season on 49% shooting. However from the three point line they're not nearly as effective. The Rams only shoot 38% from there, though against a Utah defense that seems all too eager to give up career nights from behind the arc, that might not be a problem. The Rams succeed through their height, as they have two 7 foot players. Junior forward Jason Smith leads the team in scoring with 17.5 points per game and rebounding, with 10 boards a game. CSU's other 7-foot player, Stuart Creason, leads the Rams in blocked shots with 29 on the season.
The Rams height will be a challenge for Nevill, who has not played well the past few games. He won't be afforded the luxury of playing soft on defense and it's even more imperative that him, and the Utes, box out to get the rebounds. They can't allow Colorado State to get second chance shots and if they do, the Rams will probably roll.
I look for Green to continue improving on offense and I hope Johnnie Bryant can carry over his success against TCU tonight. But if Utah is going to win, outside of strong three point defending, they will need Nevill to play like he was earlier in the year. He'll need to attack the basket and utilize his size, especially against a taller Rams team.
In the end I think the Rams will win. This Utah team hasn't shown me they're capable enough to go on the road and get a win like this. So, with how the past two conference games have played out, I think Utah loses 68-64.