TV Schedule: Wednesday, Dec. 2, 10:00 p.m. ET, PAC-12 Network
Arena: Jon M. Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City, UT
The Utah Utes and BYU Cougars look to both be headed to a 2016 NCAA tournament berth in March, but a non-conference win over a fellow expected tournament team could relieve tons of pressure for one of these teams on Selection Sunday.
Utah started off the season strong, but were blown out by the Miami Hurricanes in the 2015 Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Since then, the team had a shaky win over the Temple Owls and a 30-point win over Idaho State; a win over the Cougars would be massive for their confidence moving forward, especially with a matchup with the No. 7 Duke Blue Devils looming.
BYU, on the other hand, boast the greatest triple-double threat in NCAA history, Kyle Collinsworth. Although the Cougars are clearly missing the scoring of Tyler Haws, Collinsworth has the ability to carry this talented team over any team they play. If it wasn’t for Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine, Collinsworth would be the consensus best player in the country. This Cougars squad could be the type of streaky team that rides hot shooting to the Final Four and is a much-watch team in terms of pure entertainment value.
On paper, BYU’s defense looks pretty good so far, but in their only game against an NCAA tournament-bound opponent, they allowed 81 points to the Belmont Bruins. This defense is not as good as the numbers show, and Utah should shred it to pieces. The good news for the Cougars, however, is that their offense is more than capable of putting up huge numbers, too, as we saw against Belmont. Collinsworth has to come up big with another borderline triple-double if BYU is to possibly pull off the upset in Salt Lake City.
That being said, I do not see BYU being capable of slowing down Jakob Poeltl, who is averaging a 20-point, 10-rebound double-double, and the rest of the Utes. Watch for Jordan Loveridge to have a quietly big night, and the Utes to win comfortably at home.
Prediction: Utah 81, BYU 70