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Utes Hope To Finish Tough Road Trip With Win In Tempe

Rylan Jones #15 of the Utah Utes passes the ball guarded by Max Hazzard #5 of the Arizona Wildcats during the first half of the NCAA men's basketball game at McKale Center on January 16, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The University of Utah men’s basketball team has a chance to end a tough road stretch on a high note when they face the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe on Saturday.

The Utes have lost three straight after falling to the Arizona Wildcats, 93-77 on Thursday night. They are now 10-6 overall, 1-3 in Pac-12 play. This is their final game of a three-game road trip before returning home next week.

Meanwhile, Arizona State is struggling as well to start conference play. They are 10-7 and 1-3 in the Pac-12, while currently on a two-game losing streak and have dropped five of their last seven contests.

All-Time, the Utes are 34-22 against the Sun Devils. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah is 9-5 against Arizona State, including a 4-3 mark in Tempe.

Utes Need To Hit Shots, Defend, Rebound

Over the last two games, Utah has struggled mightily on the offensive end, in particular hitting shots. Not counting the loss to Oregon, because Utah lost by just five points. But, against Colorado and Arizona, Utah has lost by a combined total of 184-129.

In their four Pac-12 games, Utah has shot over 40 percent from the field, those games coming against Oregon State and the Arizona Wildcats on Thursday. The other two games, Utah shot 35 percent in the games against Oregon and Colorado. In Utah’s only conference win, they shot 47 percent from the three-point line. But, in their three defeats, they shot 35 percent or less from beyond the arc.

On top of all of that, Utah is struggling on the defensive end. They have allowed 90 or more points in their last two games, all losses. Before this stretch, the Utes gave up over 90 points once, when they beat BYU in overtime 102-95.

Finally, Utah needs to win the battle of the boards. In their only conference win, Utah won the rebound battle, but in their three losses, they have been out-rebounded by a combined total of 121-92.

Three ASU Players To Watch For

Arizona State has three players that stand out that could create fits for the Utes on Saturday.

Remy Martin is their leading scorer at 19.5 points per game. That average ranks third in the conference. Martin is also averaging 3.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals per game, while shooting 43 percent from the field. He is a very quick guard who likes to get to the rim at every chance he gets, but also has the green light when it comes to shooting from the perimeter. The junior guard has a very quick first step when driving to the basket.

Romello White is the “bruiser” for the Sun Devils. His 6’8, 235-pound frame gives him the advantage in the post. Along with his experience as a junior, he will present a challenge to Utah’s bigs, who don’t have the weight yet as freshmen. White is average 11.1 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game, while shooting 66 percent from the field. He ranks second in the Pac-12 in field goal percentage and second in rebounding.

Alonzo Verge Jr. is a small and quick guard, but doesn’t pose a threat out on the perimeter. He is shooting 17 percent from beyond the arc, while average 38 percent shooting from the field and 76 percent from the free throw line. The 6’3 junior is posting 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

As a team, the Sun Devils average a Pac-12-best 8 steals per game, which is ranked No. 1 in the conference. Limiting turnovers will be a major factor for the Utes against Arizona State.

Major Metric Rankings

Part of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee process is the information compiled from five major metrics, the NET rankings, the three metrics from ESPN, including Strength of Record, BPI and RPI. The final two metrics that are used are the rankings from KenPom and Sagarin.

Utah is ranked No. 68 in the NET ranking after dropping eight spots after their loss to Arizona. Arizona State is No. 65 in the NET rankings, dropping four spots after their loss to Colorado. They are the eighth highest ranked team in the Pac-12 according to the NET rankings, while Utah is ninth.

Here is where the other metrics have the Utes this week:

  • RPI – 66
  • SOR – 63
  • BPI – 119
  • KenPom – 116
  • Sagarin – 78

For Arizona, here is where the other metrics have them ranked:

  • RPI – 58
  • SOR – 71
  • BPI – 90
  • KenPom – 88
  • Sagarin – 71

Also, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee uses the Quadrant system where they put the opponent in a quadrant depending on their five ratings in their major metrics. Entering the game against Arizona State, Utah is 1-4 against Quadrant 1 opponents. Their four losses came against Oregon, San Diego State, Colorado and Arizona, while their lone win was over Kentucky in Las Vegas.

The Utes are 4-0 against Quadrant 2 teams with wins over BYU, Nevada, Minnesota and Oregon State. In Quadrant 3, Utah is 0-2 with both losses coming against Tulane and Coastal Carolina in the Myrtle Beach Invitational. The Utes are 5-0 in Quadrant 4 with wins over Ohio,Β  UC Davis, Weber State, Central Arkansas and Mississippi Valley State.

Arizona State has a 1-6 record in Quadrant 1, beating Oregon State on the road. Their six losses came against Arizona, Colorado twice, Oregon, Creighton and St. Mary’s. They are 3-1 in Quadrant 2 with wins over St. John’s, San Francisco and Georgia, while losing to Virginia. The Sun Devils have a 1-0 record in Quadrant 3 with their win coming against Princeton. They are 5-0 in Quadrant 4 with victories over Rider, Prairie View, Louisiana, Texas Southern and Central Connecticut State.

Utah and Arizona will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday and will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.

The Crimson Corner podcast is the one-stop for all things University of Utah Athletics hosted by Utah insider Trevor Allen. Ute fans will find interviews with current players, coaches, and staff alongside expert analysis of every game, story and angle coming out of the University of Utah.

You can download and listen to the podcast,Β here.

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