The Running Utes opened up Pac-12 play last weekend with a thud. After failing imploding in the second half against Stanford the Utes followed up by getting drubbed by Cal on Sunday. Today the Utes finish their three game road swing in Boulder Colorado with a chance to get at least one road win before heading back to the Huntsman Center next week.
Colorado will pose yet another tough challenge for the Utes in Pac-12 play. Led by big man Josh Scott, the Buffs are one of the few teams in the Pac-12 who have a center that can match up with Jakob Poeltl. Scott is a senior and having the best year of his career so far, averaging 17.9 ppg, 9.5 rpg and 1.8 bpg. He has scored in double digits in every game this season. He has seven double-doubles this year and leads the team in field goal percentage, shooting 58% from the field.
In the backcourt, Colorado boasts a couple of big guards in 6-5 junior Josh Fortune and 6-6 sophomore George King. Both are decent shooters and capable scorers. Fortune averages 11.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg and 3.1 apg, while King averages 13.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, and 0.7 apg. Both are capable of going off for big games as King did against BYU (23 points, 5 rebounds) and Auburn (27 points, 7 rebounds). Utah has and will face better guards continuing into Pac-12 play, but both are good players that can make a Utah team that has struggled with perimeter defense pay.
This game will pose an interesting challenge for the Utes with Kyle Kuzma listed as day-to-day. Colorado has really good size and is a top rebounding team, ranking second in the Pac-12 and sixth in the country averaging 43.7 per game. If Kuzma is not able to play, even more pressure will be placed on Poeltl's shoulders against a Colorado front court that looks to match up well against him.
Coach Krystkowiak has been playing around with the idea of burning 6-11 freshman Jayce Johnson's redshirt, though no decision has been officially made. Johnson has been competitive in practice, lending credence to the notion his presence would provide a boost through the Pac-12 slate. Whether or not he plays tonight remains to be seen, but without Kuzma, the Utes would be left with only Poeltl, Chris Reyes and Brekkot Chapman in the post. Jordan Loveridge can play in the post, but at 6-6 he is more effective on the perimeter.
Utah will need all the size they can muster against the Buffs on Friday night. In Sunday's loss to Cal, the Utes were out rebounded for only the second time all season by a tally of 39 to 28. Miami was the other team to out rebound the Utes in another lopsided defeat. Utah will need to make crashing the boards a priority against Colorado. Jakob Poeltl continues to be the stalwart for Utah and will need to win the matchup against Josh Scott for the Runnin Utes to get a win in Boulder.
You can watch the action at 7pm MT on Fox Sports 1 or listen to Bill Riley and Jimmy Soto deliver the call on ESPN700.