Utah Looking To Bounce Back In Pac-12 Action Against UCLA

Feb 1, 2020, 7:05 PM
Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen (20) during a college basketball game between the UCLA Bruins and the...
Utah Utes forward Timmy Allen (20) during a college basketball game between the UCLA Bruins and the Utah Utes on March 09 , 2019, at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Boyd Ivey/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The University of Utah Runnin’ Utes are hoping to finish their Southern California trip on a high note when they square off with the UCLA Bruins on Sunday afternoon.

The Utes are 12-8 overall and 3-5 in Pac-12 play following their disappointing loss to USC on Thursday night. That loss snapped a two game winning streak.

UCLA is 11-10 overall and 4-4 in conference play after their big win over No. 20 Colorado on Thursday. The Bruins have won three of their last four games.

Utah leads the all-time series over UCLA 8-7. Since joining the Pac-12, the Utes are 6-6 against the Bruins and 2-4 at Pauley Pavilion. The Utes have won the last four meetings. The last time the two teams met in Westwood, Utah won the game at the buzzer when Parker Van Dyke nailed a three-pointer as time expired to lift the Utes to a 93-92 win.

Utes Need Offensive Rhythm

Utah has been struggling shooting the basketball overall and from the three point line. They started the game against USC, shooting the ball very well and had a double digit lead before they went cold late in the half and again in the second half.

In their 8 Pac-12 games this season, Utah has shot better than 40 percent three times, two were losses. From beyond the arc, the Utes have shot 40 percent or better just twice and they won both of those games.

The Utes have shot less than 40 percent from the field in five games and lost every time. When they shot worse than 40 percent from the three point line, Utah is 1-5 in conference play. Their only win was against Washington.

The Bruins have put their focus on the defensive end under new head coach Mick Cronin. They have athletic players that can disrupt Utah’s offensive rhythm. In their loss to USC, Utah shot 32 percent from the floor and 28 percent from the perimeter.

If Utah wants any chance to leave Los Angeles with a win, they will need to shoot the ball much better especially when they are open shots.

The status of starting shooting guard Both Gach is in question. He missed the game against USC due to a leg injury. Freshman guard Jaxon Brenchley started in his place and scored 6 points and pulled down 5 rebounds.

UCLA On A Winning Streak

Despite a poor record this season, UCLA has been playing well in three of their last four games. Their only loss in that stretch was at Oregon. They beat California, Oregon State and Colorado. In their win over the Buffaloes on Thursday night, Chris Smith led the way with 30 points and 9 rebounds. The Bruins shot 39 percent from the floor and 33 percent from beyond the arc. A big reason for the win was by making 25 of their 29 free throw attempts.

Smith leads the Bruins in scoring this season, averaging 13 points. He is the only player on the team that is averaging double figures. Jalen Hill is posting 9.7 points and 7 rebounds per game.

None of the UCLA players rank in the top five in the Pac-12 Conference in any statistical category.

Utah’s NCAA Tournament Hopes

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. 71 in the NET ranking after moving up three spots after their loss to USC. UCLA is No. 116 in the NET rankings, moving up one spot after their win over Colorado. The Utes are the eighth highest ranked team in the Pac-12 according to the NET rankings, while UCLA is 12th.

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

  • RPI – 63
  • SOR – 68
  • BPI – 116
  • KenPom – 107
  • Sagarin – 82

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

  • RPI – 105
  • SOR – 128
  • BPI – 135
  • KenPom – 125
  • Sagarin – 121

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 UCLA, Utah is 2-6 against Quadrant 1 opponents. Their six losses came against Oregon, San Diego State, Colorado, Arizona, Arizona State and USC, while their two wins coming against BYU and Kentucky in Las Vegas.

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

USC has a 2-5 record in Quadrant 1, beating Washington and Colorado but lost to Michigan State, Oregon, BYU, Stanford and Notre Dame. They are 1-3 in Quadrant 2 with their lone win against Oregon State and their three losses coming against USC, North Carolina and Washington State. The Bruins have a 3-1 record in Quadrant 3 with their wins coming against UNLV, California and Southern Utah, while losing to Hofstra. They are 4-1 in Quadrant 4 with victories over UC Santa Barbara, San Jose State, Long Beach State and Denver. Their only loss was to Cal State Fullerton.

The Utes and Bruins will square off on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on FS1.

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