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Utah Basketball To Begin 2020-21 Season With Conference Clash

Utah Utes center Branden Carlson (35) and guard Jaxon Brenchley (5) react in the final minutes during the NCAA men's basketball game between the Utah Utes and the Stanford Cardinal at Maples Pavilion on February 26, 2020 in Palo Alto, CA. (Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah men’s basketball will finally get started on Thursday night when they host the Washington Huskies at the Jon M. Huntsman Center.

It’s the latest start date for a season opener in the modern era for the Runnin’ Utes. Utah will be challenged right out of the gates as their season opener is also a conference game.

Last season, Utah picked up a 67-66 win over the Huskies in their only matchup. Rylan Jones knocked down two clutch free throws with 14 seconds left to give the Utes the victory.

Riley Battin led the team with 17 points. Timmy Allen and Jones each chipped in 13 points.

Utah Players To Watch For

Timmy Allen

The 2020 All-Pac-12 second teamer is back for his junior season after averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Allen is expected to lead the charge once again this season. The Mesa, Arizona native has been working on his jump shot and extending his range. He could be a very dynamic scorer if he can get a consistent jump shot from beyond the arc.

Rylan Jones

Jones was handed the reigns to Utah’s offense as a true freshman last season and he thrived. Starting in 28 games in 2019-2020, Jones posted averages of 9.6 points, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. The Utah floor general has a nice jump shot and can make big plays under pressure. The returning sophomore was named a team captain this season along with Timmy Allen and Riley Battin. Jones is expected to push his game to another level as a scorer and playmaker.

Alfonso Plummer

Plummer is Utah’s only senior on the roster. The JUCO transfer didn’t see the floor much last season until the end of the year when he took off. Plummer made a Pac-12 Tournament record 11 three-pointers last season in their first round matchup against Oregon State. When he gets a rhythm going with his jump shot, he can light up the scoreboard.

Branden Carlson

Carlson enters his second season with the Utes. The seven-footer made great strides last season as a true freshman. He had 8 blocked shots in a game in 2019-20 against Stanford. His defense showed signs of brilliance and his game is developing. Look for Carlson to extend his range this season which would stretch the floor and open up the paint for slashers to go to work.

Pelle Larsson

The Swedish freshman has received high praise from his teammates and coaches throughout the off-season since he arrived on campus. Likely the backup point guard to Rylan Jones, Larsson has the length and scoring ability to play the two-guard position alongside Jones. At 6’5, Larsson gives Larry Krystkowiak a lot of options and different ways to use him on the floor. His playmaking and shot creating ability should be on display right away for the Utes.

Ian Martinez

Martinez was a scoring machine at JSerra Catholic High School, averaging 23.9 points per game. He can create his own shot as well as can be a spot up shooter. The true freshman will be an asset right away and can help in other ways. In high school, he averaged 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.3 steals per game.

Facing Washington In Opener

Mike Hopkins is entering his fourth season as the head coach of the Huskies. He brings in four transfers this season, including Erik Stevenson from Wichita State, Cole Bajema from Michigan, Nate Pryor from North Idaho College and J’Raan Brooks from USC.

Quade Green is eligible this year after transferring to Washington from Kentucky but was ruled ineligible last season.

Hopkins is from the Jim Boeheim coaching tree at Syracuse and brought the famous zone defense with him to Seattle.

Washington lost their first game of the season, 86-52 to No. 2 Baylor in Las Vegas, Nevada on Sunday, Nov. 29. RaeQuan Battle led all Huskies with 10 points.

Tipoff on Thursday will be at 4 p.m. MST and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for KSLSports.com and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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