Well, the Utes have made it this far, so they may as well win two more games to finish the job. The Utes take on the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky tonight in the first game of the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden — to many the pinnacle of basketball. According to ESPN’s BPI, Utah is an underdog in this game, and that shouldn’t be too big of a surprise since Utah’s been underdogs for a while. The Utes are the highest seed left in the tournament, a 2-seed, while the others are all 4-seeds.
The seniors are going to be the key for the Utes in this game, especially the big two, Justin Bibbins and David Collette. Collette, hopefully with a healthy back, needs to stay out of foul trouble and be aggressive. If Collette isn’t 100%, then the Utes are going to need Tyler Rawson (who they’re going to need anyway) and Jayce Johnson. Johnson will be key to get big rebounds when he’s on the floor. Justin Bibbins will have to hit some shots from deep and faciliate the offense, so he can keep the defense honest. Hopefully, Sedrick Barefield can stay locked in too, so he can give Utah some offensive punch, and hopefully pull the Utes out of the inevitable offensive slump they’ll hit.
More on Western Kentucky from UtahUtes.com:
SCOUTING WESTERN KENTUCKYThe Hilltoppers are 27-10 overall on the season and finished third in Conference USA with a record of 14-4. Western Kentucky has won five of its past six games, which included a pair of wins in the C-USA Tournament. The Hilltoppers fell in the championships game, 67-66, to Marshall. All five WKU starters are averaging double-figures on the season and are led by their big man Justin Johnson’s 15.4 points per game. He also leads the team on the boards with 9.4 rebounds per game. Darius Thompson (13.9), Taveion Hollingsworth (13.5), Lamonte Bearden (11.8) and Dwight Coleby (11.1) are each posting double-digit scoring averages this season, as well. Coleby has tallied a team-high 64 blocked shots, while Thompson leads the squad with 57 steals on the season. Thompson also has a team-high 174 assists and Bearden follows with 128 assists on the year. The Hilltoppers average 78.8 points a game with a .497 field goal shooting percentage. They shoot .353 from beyond the arc and .716 from the charity stripe.
NIT SEMIFINALS: Utah (22-11) vs. Western Kentucky (27-10)
WHERE: New York, N.Y. (Madison Square Garden)
WHEN: Tuesday, March 27
TIP-OFF: 7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MT
TELEVISION: ESPN / WatchESPN