When the match up between 12th seed Stephen F Austin and 5th seed Utah popped up on the selection board, national media started talking about Delon Wright and his Utah Utes. Wright would be considered by most as the team leader of the Running Utes, by his example and play. Who then would some consider the front man for the Lumberjacks? All indications are that title belongs to junior guard Thomas Walkup.
The 6-4 Walkup spends time at both guard and forward as need dictates. In the Southland Conference championship game Walkup was 9-for-14 from the field and had a team-high 24 points. The junior from Pasadena, Texas also leads the team with 15.7 points per game on the season, and leads the team in many statistical categories. Including his team high 6.4 rebounds, 3.7 assists per game, and 57.1% shooting percentage. Walkup, the Southland Conference Player of the Year, appears to be a jack of all trades.
One of the things that gets him ready for a game is playing "FIFA" on his game console. It gets the, "competitive juices flowing."
In 33 games this season, Walkup has logged nine games of 20 or more points, including two of 30 or more. The two-year starter has also had eight games of nine or more rebounds. A lot has been made of the Southland POY's scoring, but the Utes will need to keep Walkup off the glass, as well. Second chance points have been a nemesis of this Utes team late in games toward the end of the season. Utah will need to get a body on Walkup and keep him away from the caroms.
One might expect Delon Wright to be guarding him Thursday. In games against perceived bigger opponents this season, Walkup was held below his average. In a loss to Baylor he had 11 points. In a four-point win over Cal State Northridge, he was held to eight, and in a six-point win over Texas State, he had seven. In losses to Xavier and Northern Iowa, Walkup had 17 and 20 points in those games. If the Utes can take Walkup out of his game, they will have a good chance of taking down Stephen F Austin. If not, the Lumberjacks may be the ones moving on.