BYU, Utah Both Prepare To Face Top 20 Opponents

Dec 28, 2018, 5:08 PM | Updated: 5:46 pm
Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (Left) and Utah Utes forward Donnie Tillman (Right) during the ...
Brigham Young Cougars guard TJ Haws (Left) and Utah Utes forward Donnie Tillman (Right) during the Beehive Classic art Vivint Smart Home Arena on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)
(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’ll be a day of big matchups for both the BYU and Utah men’s basketball team this Saturday.

Both teams will face a tough opponent in their final nonconference game before beginning conference play.

Following wins over lesser opponents like Florida A&M and Northern Arizona, the Utes will host one of the nation’s top team in undefeated No. 6-ranked Nevada.

BYU, who was lost its last two to San Diego State and UNLV, will head south to face No. 19 Mississippi State in Starkville.

Utes To Host Wolf Pack

Nevada, one of the top teams in the preseason poll, has raced out to a 12-0 record so far this year. They played and beat BYU 86-70 in their season opener and also defeated some of Utah’s Pac-12 foes, Arizona State and USC later in the year.

As for Utah, who is 6-5 on the season, they’re just getting the hang of their rotation and new players on the squad.

“We’re making progress,” Utah head coach Larry Krystkowiak said to Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News. “We’ve got to just be dialed in and start making some plays.”

Taking a glance at the Wolf Pack, Krystkowiak believes they hold a roster as strong as any in the nation.

Led by head coach Eric Musselman, the Wolf Pack are built from a nucleus of transfer players. Their best player is arguably forward Jordan Caroline, who is aided by a pair of twins, Caleb and Cody Martin.

“When you look down their roster, they have an awful lot of transfer guys. (Musselman) does a good job of blending personalities and talent,” said Krystkowiak. “The Martin kids are the head of the snake, Caroline is as good a player as there is in the country, and they have a lot of pieces around them that would lead you to believe they have a chance to be a Final Four team with a bunch of experience on top of that.”

The game between Utah and Nevada is set to tip off Saturday at noon and be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

Cougars Travel To Face Mississippi State

As for BYU, they’re not facing as formidable of an opponent as Nevada, but Mississippi State is no slouch either.

It probably isn’t the best time for the Cougars to be facing one of the nation’s Top 25 teams as they have currently dropped their last two games and five of their last eight.

“Our guys understand the challenge we have here is pretty difficult,” BYU coach Dave Rose said to Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune. “For us to go in there and get this turned around, we are going to have to have a heckuva effort, from the top of the roster all the way to the bottom of the roster.”

Center Yoeli Childs was on a streak of three-straight games with 30-plus points but has since been held to just 16.3 points over the Cougars’ last three games.

While 16.3 points per game seems like a major drop off in Childs’ production, that total would actucally place him among Mississippi State’s team leaders. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer, Quinndary Weatherspoon, averages 16.4 points per game. The thing that makes the Bulldogs so menacing however, is that they have five players that average 10-plus points per game.

The Bulldogs have a 11-1 record with their only loss coming to Arizona State. BYU sits at a 8-6 record.

The game between BYU and Nevada is scheduled for Saturday at 10 a.m. on ESPN U.

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BYU, Utah Both Prepare To Face Top 20 Opponents