The No. 16 Utah Utes will go up against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Below is the Utah vs. Texas Tech prediction and game preview.
Utah vs. Texas Tech Game Preview
Date: Thursday, Nov. 19
Game Time: 8 p.m. ET
Venue: Roberto Clemente Coliseum, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Why You Need To Care
Utah cracked its way into the AP Top 25 last season for the first time in six years, reaching as high as No. 8 before eventually finishing at No. 19. The Utes ran into the eventual national champion Duke Blue Devils in the Sweet 16 and were knocked out of the tournament.
In his fifth season coaching Utah, Larry Krystkowiak is trying to lead the program to its first back-to-back berth in the NCAA Tournament in 11 years. He and his team opened up the season with wins against Southern Utah and San Diego State.
The Utes will be taking on a Texas Tech team that hasn’t had a winning record since the 2009-10 season. Tubby Smith is in his third year with the Red Raiders, who haven’t gone dancing since the Bob Knight era.
Texas Tech barely beat High Point, 77-73, to start the season. Although, the Red Raiders have won the last three meetings against the Utes with the series tied 3-3.
It’s a chance for the country to see what kind of team Utah is going to be. This is a game the Utes should win, but on a neutral court, anything can happen.
Why Utah Will Win
The Utes are returning four starters from last year’s tournament team that finished with a 26-9 record. That squad was No. 7 in three point shooting with 40.4 percent from behind the arc. With its top three shooters back, Utah will shoot a high volume of threes — already taken 56 triples in two games. Krystkowiak’s squad will rotate and close out to make every shot as difficult as possible. Utah allowed just 57.1 points per game last year (eighth in the nation). Texas Tech shot 27.3 percent from three against High Point and gave the Panthers 20 free throw attempts. The Utes shot 70.3 percent from the chairty stipe last year. It’s a proven recipe for success.
Why Texas Tech Will Win
On the flipside, the Red Raiders are also bringing back four starters from last season. Sure, they finished 13-19, but at least there’s some familiarity there for Smith’s starting lineup. It’s always nice to have cohesion for your first five. Texas Tech didn’t shine in any particular category last season, but it did out-rebound its opponents. The Red Raiders collected 374 offensive rebounds last year, and that has to be an area of focus going into the game against Utah. The Utes will shoot early and often, so the Red Raiders getting some second-chance points may slow down Utah’s offensive attack and kill its vibe a little bit. Texas Tech just needs to make every possession count, meaning don’t turn the ball over.
Players Who Matter
Pay close attention because there are three big names to keep an eye on for Utah: Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge and Dakarai Tucker. All three are seniors, and all three attempted at least 100 threes. It sounds like “three” is the magic number here. Taylor was the only one of the trio who didn’t shoot at least 40 percent from deep (36 percent). Loveridge was the only one who has scored double-digit points in a game so far, though. He’s averaging 22.5 points per game right now. They all have the ability to launch the longball.
Texas Tech needs — emphasis on needs — Devaugntah Williams to be the alpha Red Raider in this one. Williams led the team with 10.5 points per game last season, but he needs to find his stroke early in this one. Texas Tech was 2-13 in games Williams scored less than 10 points in last season. Zach Smith and Norense Odiase also need to lead by dominating on the boards. They were the team’s leading rebounders last season, but both averaged less than five rebounds per game. That’s just not going to get it done most nights. If they clean up on the glass, and Williams gets hot, Texas Tech will be in it.
What’s Going To Happen?
Utah should shoot lights out. Taylor and Tucker will finally find their shots, which have eluded them through the first two games. Loveridge will still get his, but he won’t quite break the 20-point mark as the Red Raiders look to get some other guys going in what should be an automatic win. Texas Tech will definitely contribute some good basketball at times, but there is a serious lack of playmaking on the Red Raiders roster, and that will plague them in this game.
Utah vs. Texas Tech Prediction
Line: Utah -9, o/u: 141